This illustration from NASA’s “Eyes on the Solar System” app shows the Mars 2020 spacecraft outbound from planet Earth. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Three robotic Mars missions launched from Earth last month have begun fine-tuning their trajectories through the solar system with the first in a series mid-course corrections to take aim on the Red Planet for arrival next February.
NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover launched from Cape Canaveral on July 30, following successful launchings with the United Arab Emirates’ Hope orbiter July 19 and China’s Tianwen 1 Mars mission July 23.
The missions launched during a period of several weeks when Earth and Mars were in the right positions in their orbits around the sun to permit a direct route between the planets. All three spacecraft are due to arrive at Mars in February 2021.
NASA said Aug. 14 that the Mars 2020 mission’s first trajectory correction maneuver, or TCM, was a success. The spacecraft fired eight thrusters to adjust its course toward Mars, beginning to shift the probe’s initial post-launch aim point on to the Red Planet.
The mission’s Atlas 5 launcher intentionally released the Mars 2020 spacecraft on a course that would miss Mars, ensuring the rocket’s upper stage ...