Getting a Mars rover built, tested and to the launch pad is a feat that requires the dedication of hundreds of team members. The team behind NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover faced one of its biggest challenges when the coronavirus pandemic struck during a crucial time before launch. The safety of the team members became top priority yet they rose to the challenge of completing the rover on time for its launch date, either by working remotely or under new “safe at work” procedures. They developed an increased appreciation for the name of the rover and in May they created the COVID-19 Perseverance Plate, which is now mounted on the side of the rover. The plate commemorates all those impacted by the pandemic and pays special tribute to front line health care workers.

Perseverance is targeted to launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on July 20, 2020. It will land on Mars on February 18, 2021.

For more information on Mars 2020, visit: https://mars.nasa.gov/perseverance

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Transcript:

Dave Gruel:

This new Rover will search for signs of ancient life, test new technologies, and gather rock samples which may some day become the first pieces of the red planet ever returned to earth for analysis.

Speaker 2:

Today we are naming a spacecraft that will go to Mars, and the name is Perseverance.

Katie Stack Morgan:

When Perseverance was first selected, I wasn't sure about it, to be honest.

Crowd:

Perseverance.

Matt Wallace:

When the pandemic struck, the future was certainly unknown. It was like walking into a blind, dark alley. You didn't know what was there, and what was in front of you, what you were going to have to deal with.

Dave Gruel:

It's something that nobody expected. It's something nobody could plan for.

Matt Wallace:

Rather than your first priority being mission success, and getting to the launch pad, your first priority immediately gets displaced, and it's now the safety of the people.

Dave Gruel:

It took a lot of work to put stuff together in order to keep momentum going, to keep people working safely, to keep them healthy and to keep the project on schedule.

Matt Wallace:

We called the effort Mars 2020 Safe at Work. The objective was to keep the team as safe or safer than they would be if they were not working. Putting a spacecraft together that's going to Mars and not making a mistake, it's hard no matter what. Trying to do it during the middle of the pandemic, it's a lot harder.

Adam Steltzner:

There's no doubt that working in isolation, not virtual isolation, but in physical isolation from everyone else, is a challenge.

Katie Stack Morgan:

It's hard for me. I have two young kids. Sometimes I'm not able to focus or listen probably as well as I would want to.

Ian Clark:

A lot of our work was occurring in a clean room anyways. But that meant that even before we entered the clean room, we had to find ways of ensuring that we were not putting ourselves or others at risk.

Matt Wallace:

We're really doing something that's transformative, and trying to understand whether or not live evolved on another planet. That's the fundamental objective of this mission.

Adam Steltzner:

We are explorers. Our job is to go into the unknown, and this is just another example of the unknown. How to make this job happen when you're doing it largely through a computer screen.

Matt Wallace:

Pretty much everybody that I've talked to that's associated with the mission has said the same thing, which is, you could not have come up with a better name than Perseverance.

Katie Stack Morgan:

I'm a convert now. Perseverance is the right name for the Rover.

Adam Steltzner:

It's an amazing serendipity that we get to persevere through working on Perseverance.

Katie Stack Morgan:

I think it's a really important symbol of humanity hopefully persevering through this great challenging time that we have right now.

Matt Wallace:

I asked the team a couple months ago if they would like to do something to kind of symbolize and mark these challenges that we faced. And they designed something that we call a COVID-19 Perseverance plate that's not affixed to the port side of the Rover. It has a symbol, a globe, representing all of us that faced this challenge together. The spacecraft leaving the earth on its way to Mars, and all of this supported by the now familiar staff and serpent of the medical community on the front lines, keeping us safe.

Matt Wallace:

We hope that this plate, and we hope that this mission, in some small way, can inspire them in return.

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