KEY POINTS

  • NASA has delayed the launch of the Mars Perseverance rover and the James Webb Space Telescope
  • A technical issue forced NASA to postpone the launch of the new Mars rover
  • NASA canceled the scheduled launch of the space telescope due to the effects of COVID-19

NASA confirmed that it has delayed the launch of two major projects. According to the agency, the delays were caused by a technical issue and the effect of the current COVID-19 outbreak.

Earlier this week, NASA announced that it has decided to delay the launch of its latest Mars rover, Perseverance. Aside from the rover, the agency also noted that it has canceled the scheduled launch of the James Webb Space Telescope.

Perseverance was originally supposed to launch on July 17. However, Tony Bruno, the CEO of United Launch Alliance (ULA), noted via Twitter that the company’s Atlas V launch rocket experienced an issue with the crane.

Although the technical issue was already solved, NASA decided to postpone the launch of Perseverance via the Atlas V rocket in order to provide teams involved in the mission enough time to prepare for the event. As noted by NASA, the mission’s new launch schedule will be on July 20.

“NASA and ULA are now targeting Monday, July 20, for the launch of the Mars 2020 mission of the Perseverance Rover on an Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex-41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida,” NASA said in a statement.

Aside from the rover, NASA also decided to postpone the launch of another major project, which is the James Webb Space Telescope. Unlike Perseverance’s mission, however, the agency has not set a new launch date for the space telescope.

The James Webb Space Telescope was designed to serve as the official successor of the Hubble Space Telescope. NASA was originally targeting March 2021 as the potential launch window of the space-based observatory. Unfortunately, due to the effects of the coronavirus on the agency, NASA was forced to delay the launch of the project.

According to Thomas Zurbuchen, the administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate, the current outbreak has significantly affected NASA’s operations regarding the development of the space telescope. Aside from cutting down on work hours, NASA’s workforce was also hit by positive cases of COVID-19.

“That is not in the cards right now,” Zurbuchen said during a recent meeting of the Space Studies Board and Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board, according to Space.com. “We've lost time. Not everyone was available; we had positive cases here and there.”

Zurbuchen noted that NASA would most likely discuss the new schedule for the space telescope’s launch next month.