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Your Guide to the July Mars Launches

It's Mars launch season! This July, the United States, China, and United Arab Emirates are all launching spacecraft to Mars that will arrive in February 2021. NASA and China are sending rovers to the surface, while the UAE aims to place a spacecraft in orbit. China and the UAE are each attempting their first Mars missions, and only NASA has ever successfully operated a spacecraft on the Martian surface for more than a few seconds. This page is your home for launch times, resource guides, and ways you can support Mars exploration with The Planetary Society.

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Mission Guides

Learn why each mission is important, how it works, and ways you can get involved.

Current launch times

Last updated 7 July 2020

Why Mars?

Learn why we explore Mars and see maps of past, present, and future landing sites.

Mars Sample Return

NASA's Perseverance rover will collect samples that will be returned to Earth in 2031. Getting them back will require the most ambitious Mars missions in history and require sustained public support to succeed. Learn why Mars Sample Return is one of our top policy priorities, and how you can help.

Sounds from Mars

What does Mars sound like? Two microphones aboard NASA's Perseverance rover will find out. Learn about the crowdfunded microphone we flew to Mars in 1999 that began with a proposal to NASA by our co-founder Carl Sagan.

Why are the Mars missions all launching around the same time?

Mars launches are scheduled when Earth and Mars closest to each other, allowing mission planners to minimize the rocket energy required and maximize the weight of their spacecraft. It takes almost twice as long for Mars to orbit the Sun than Earth—365 days versus 687 days—which means Earth and Mars will be closest roughly every 2 years. Launch periods and opportunities differ for each mission, but typically last just a few weeks.

Not since 2003 have 3 Mars missions all launched during the same period. That year, the European Space Agency's Mars Express orbiter lifted off on 2 June, followed by NASA's Spirit and Opportunity rovers on 10 June and 7 July, respectively. This is the first time 3 different countries have launched during the same period.

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How do you get to Mars?

This video shows how to launch a spacecraft to Mars, including why launch opportunities occur roughly every 2 years. Credit: NASA/JPL

Michel Ory

Space is vast. There's a lot of exploring to do.

You can increase discoveries in the worlds of our solar system and beyond. When you join The Planetary Society, you help build public support for planetary science, encourage decision makers to prioritize human and robotic exploration, and support technological advances in planetary exploration.

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Mastcam-Z Stories

The Planetary Society is an education and outreach partner for the Mastcam-Z instrument on NASA's Perseverance rover. We feature personal stories from the team sending this cutting-edge camera system to Mars.

How you can Support Mars Exploration

Space missions don't just happen. They require years of sustained support from space agencies, governments, scientists, industry, and the public—that means you! Start by sharing this page with your friends and family, along with beautiful pictures of Mars from our image library.

One of The Planetary Society's top priorities is making sure the samples Perseverance collects are brought back to Earth. Doing so will require the most ambitious Mars missions in history. NASA and the European Space Agency have crafted an outline for those missions, but they are still in their early planning stages and not yet a certainty. We recently laid out specific steps Congress can take to make the missions happen. You can sign up for our Space Advocate newsletter and we’ll let you know when there are specific actions you can take. Want to learn the inner workings of NASA, how Congress develops space legislation, and how to engage with your elected officials? Take our free Space Advocacy 101 course.

You can follow the excitement of these Mars missions by signing up for The Downlink, our weekly toolkit that contains news, announcements, and actions you can take to support space science and exploration. We couldn't do any of this work without support from our members—consider joining today!

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