WASHINGTON — Development of a NASA mission to collect samples on Mars for later return to Earth has suffered a setback, although one that project officials said should not affect its 2020 launch date.
In a statement released late April 26, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory said a structure that is part of the heat shield for the Mars 2020 spacecraft cracked during testing earlier in the month at a Lockheed Martin facility near Denver.
The fracture in the composite structure is located near the outer edge of the shield and spans its circumference, according to the JPL statement. It was detected April 12 after the heat shield underwent a week of testing at the Lockheed facility where it was subjected to forces 20 percent above those expected in a normal entry into the Martian atmosphere.
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