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NASA Rover Launch Gets Additional Safety Precautions

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The payload fairing, or nose cone, containing the Mars 2020 Perseverance rover sits atop the motorized payload transporter that will carry it to Space Launch Complex 41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The image was taken on July 7, 2020. Photo: NASA/KSC

NASA is taking additional safety measures for the launch of its Mars Perseverance rover next week from Cape Canaveral. That’s because it’s packed with radioactive material.

The NASA rover relies on marshmallow-sized chunks of plutonium for power. As the material decays it gives off heat which the rover can turn into electrical power.

NASA conducted an extensive safety assessment before launch, consulting federal, state and local authorities about the risks and safety measures needed to protect area residents.

There’s only about a tenth of one percent chance that an accident could occur which results in radioactive particles going airborne. Even still, the possible exposure would be low to those nearby.

Despite the low risk, Kennedy Space Center is deploying 30 sensors around the area to measure air quality and alert NASA if there’s any radioactive particles nearby.

If anything does happen, NASA and Brevard county will offer guidance to residents near the launch site like sheltering in place until an all clear is issued.

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Brendan Byrne

About Brendan Byrne

Space Reporter and 'Are We There Yet?' Host

Brendan covers space news for WMFE, everything from rocket launches to the latest scientific discoveries in our universe. He hosts WMFE's weekly radio show and podcast "Are We There Yet?" which explores human space exploration. Brendan is a native Floridian, born and raised in Broward County. He moved to ... Read Full Bio »