Don Lee: Perseverance rover heading to Mars, MAX 737 likely to fly again

Published 12:17 am Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Before we go off into space, I really think that the Boeing 737 MAX will fly again this fall.

The FAA has given an indication that they will be issuing an okay for flight in 45 days to give the public time to comment on the directive. That should end the first week in September.  It seems reasonable that plane will be returning to service in October.

There will probably be a directive detailing those repairs and inspections that must be done. I wonder if the passengers will opt to fly on other planes.

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Now, off to space news… Let me describe the launching and projected chores for the space craft to do on Mars.

There is a wealth of information on Perseverance on, if you don’t find enough with my brief comments. If you watch the news, you will know that the Perseverance made the start to Mars on July 30. The window for launch started at 7:50 a.m. EDT. The weather was good this time. If it would have been delayed too long, later than Aug. 15, there will not be another opportunity for two years when Mars again will again be close enough to launch.

It takes about two earth years for Mars to orbit the sun.

It was lifted off atop an Atlas V rocket, which is a very reliable vehicle.

The projected landing on the red planet is Feb. 18, 2021.

Perseverance (Percy) has a lot of instruments aboard and a small helicopter named Ingenuity, which only has a camera aboard. It will be investigating the best route for Percy to follow. It will be taking pictures of the Perseverance and surrounding area.

Percy is powered by radioactive source, 99 pounds of plutonium dioxide, and should have enough power to last 14 years. It will be investigating converting some of Mars carbon dioxide in the thin atmosphere into oxygen. Of course, oxygen will be needed to sustain life if we are able to colonize the red planet. Percy also will be collecting samples of Martian soil looking for signs of early life on Mars, maybe a long as millions of years ago.

The primary area of investigating will be what is called the 28-mile-wide Jezero crater. It is thought that there was a lake and a river delta there in the ancient past.

Those several dozen soil samples that it will take, will be returned to earth by some future Mars mission.
NASA is teaming up with the European Space Agency (ESA) to develop a space craft to find the many samples that Percy will be gathering and cached in some accessible place.

The plan is to send a mission equipped with a return rocket to lift off from Mars with the samples it gathers up from Percy’s work.

The projected time is 2031 to come back to earth.

The Apollo astronauts were able to lift off the moon, but Mars has many times more gravity than the moon. It will be quite a challenge to carry enough fuel to lift back off after some seven months of travel to Mars.
Since Mars will be traveling away from the earth for seven months, it will take a long time to travel back.

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