Mission to Mars: ORNL helping fuel Perseverance rover mission

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OAK RIDGE, Tenn. (WATE) – The Mission to Mars has a connection right here in East Tennessee. Oak Ridge National Laboratory is helping provide power to the rover.

Perseverance uses nuclear material produced at ORNL to produce heat, heat that is then turned into electricity.

In 2015 ORNL started the first new domestic production of plutonium-238, which the lab says hadn’t been made in the United States in nearly three decades.

NASA’s launch window for the Mars 2020 mission opens Thursday.

The aim is to study the geology and climate of the red planet. Mission planners hope to land on Mars in February 2021.

FILE – In this Dec. 17, 2019, file photo made available by NASA, engineers watch the first driving test for the Mars 2020 rover Perseverance. in a clean room at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. NASA has delayed the launch of its newest Mars rover yet again because of rocket issues. The space agency has until mid-August to send the Perseverance rover to the red planet to look for signs of ancient microscopic life, before having to wait until 2022. Managers are now targeting no earlier than July 30 for a liftoff from Cape Canaveral, Florida, eating up half of the month-long launch window. (J. Krohn/NASA via AP, File)

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