NASA’s Mars rover will honor Covid-19 medical workers

Prashasti Awasthi Mumbai | Updated on June 18, 2020

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) on Wednesday revealed that its next Mars rover would honour medical workers on the frontline battling coronavirus, The Hindu reported.

The space agency showed the commemorative plate attached to the rover, aptly named Perseverance. The rover team called it the Covid-19 Perseverance plate, designed in the last couple of months.

The black and white aluminium plate — 8-by-13 centimetres — shows planet Earth atop a staff entwined with a serpent, a symbol of the medical community. The path of the spacecraft also is depicted, with its origin from Cape Canaveral, The Hindu reported.

"They really inspired us, I think, through this period, and we hope that this plate and we hope that this mission in some small way can inspire them in return,” Perseverance deputy project manager Matt Wallace, of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, told reporters.

According to NASA officials, the word perseverance has become more pronounced in the last few months as the battle against coronavirus took momentum all across the world.

It’s hard enough preparing a spacecraft for Mars, but doing this midst a pandemic made it even harder, Wallace said. Additional work shifts were added to reduce the number of people working on the rover at any one time and ensure social distancing. Others had to work from home.

NASA is prepping up for its July 20 launch, even as the number of Covid-19 cases continue to rise in Florida.

The mission of the rover is to collect rock and soil samples for eventual return to Earth. This is considered essential by the space agency, if the rover isn’t launched by mid-August.

NASA officials told the media that it would need to wait until 2022 when Earth and Mars are back in proper alignment. A two-year delay could add another $500 million to the nearly $3 billion mission.

Unlike SpaceX's first astronaut launch late last month, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine isn’t urging the public to stay home and watch online to avoid crowds.

"It appears they didn’t listen to us,” Bridenstine said. “So we’re asking people to follow all of the necessary guidelines to keep themselves safe, and we’re trusting that they will.”

Perseverance is one of three upcoming missions to Mars. The United Arab Emirates and China also are preparing spacecraft for launch to the red planet by mid-August.

Published on June 18, 2020

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