Failure to launch, another rover set to explore the red planet

Published 11:59 pm Friday, May 29, 2020

I was disappointed on Wednesday when the Falcon 9 rocket launch was postponed.  This was to be the first time since the last space shuttle launch in 2011 that the U.S. would be sending astronauts to the international Space Station (ISS) in our own rocket.


I spent about an hour watching the NASA TV program on the launch that didn’t make it. I can understand why, I was also watching the weather at Cape Canaveral and it was stormy. In my wonderful hindsight, I would have scrubbed it much earlier.

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At least this was some news besides the COVID-19 virus news.


I was surprised that the astronauts were loaded and ready to fly before the rocket was fueled. From a safety standpoint, it seems reasonable.


If the fuel was already on board before they started to load and there was a fire, they would not stand a chance. When they are already on board and if there would be a fire, they have a rocket to carry them out of harm’s way with a parachute to lower them back to the ground.


I’ll be watching again today when there is another opportunity to launch.


I thought there would be a window of time for the launch, but they claim that it has to be very precise to launch at the correct time to catch up with the ISS.


Another privately-funded space project was a failure this past week.

Virgin Orbit attempted to send a rocket into orbit after it was launched from a 747 airplane.


It seemed like a good idea to me, since it would already be traveling in excess of 400 mph and be above most of the atmosphere when it is deployed.


Orbit is a 70-foot-long rocket mounted on a pylon under the wing of the Boeing 747.

It was pointed up at about 27 degrees when it was released out over the Pacific Ocean.


Unfortunately, it suffered an “anomaly,” which means they don’t know why at this point that it failed. Evidently Richard Branson has deep pockets, since they have six other Orbits on the assembly line.


The Perseverance Rover, which is scheduled to start to Mars on July 17, has arrived at Cape Canaveral aboard a Ukrainian cargo plane called Antonov An-124.


The An-124 is a big plane with 20 percent more cargo space than our C-5a.


The rover is a very sophisticated machine. It has a helicopter to look for sites to investigate. The rover will also collect rock samples and package them in cigar-sized cylinders to be returned to earth.


Perseverance is a rather big wheeled vehicle weighing in at 2,260 pounds. It has 23 cameras and two microphones. It will use a radioactive heat source made of 11 pounds of plutonium dioxide which will be used to generate electricity to power the instruments.


The helicopter will have solar cells for power.


One of the experiments planned will be to produce oxygen from the sparse amount of carbon dioxide in the Martian atmosphere. Of course, the oxygen would be needed if we try to colonize Mars. They hope to use a ground penetrating radar to look for subsurface water, also.


The scheduled date for arrival on Mars is Feb. 18, 2021.


Don Lee, a pilot flying out of Lawrence County Airport since 1970, has been in charge of equipment and grounds maintenance for several years. He can be reached at