Today, July 30, 2020 at 7:50 a.m. EDT (11:50 UTC) NASA’s Mars 2020 rover Perseverance launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida aboard a ULA Atlas V 541 rocket. The weather at the Cape was picture-perfect and the launch went smoothly, sending NASA’s newest robotic mission to Mars on its way for an anticipated arrival and landing on February 18, 2021. If you didn’t catch the event as it was streamed live you can watch a video of the launch below:
The Perseverance rover—a souped-up, next-generation version of Curiosity, which has been operating on Mars now nearly eight years—will land in and explore Jezero Crater, where an ancient river delta may contain evidence of past life.
The landing is expected to occur on February 18, 2021, via the same type of parachute descent and sky-crane drop vehicle that put Curiosity on Mars on August 6, 2012.
In addition to the rover, the Mars 2020 mission also includes a 4-lb / 1.8-kg dual-rotor helicopter called Ingenuity. This solar-powered drone will be deployed onto the surface of Mars from the underside of Perseverance and attempt the first powered flight on another world. Exciting!
“With the launch of Perseverance, we begin another historic mission of exploration. This amazing explorer’s journey has already required the very best from all of us to get it to launch through these challenging times. Now we can look forward to its incredible science and to bringing samples of Mars home even as we advance human missions to the Red Planet. As a mission, as an agency, and as a country, we will persevere.”
— Jim Bridenstine, NASA Administrator
The mission of the Mars 2020 Perseverance rover focuses on surface-based studies of the Martian environment, seeking preserved signs of biosignatures in rock samples that formed in ancient Martian environments with conditions that might have been favorable to microbial life.
It is the first rover mission designed to seek signs of past microbial life. (Editor’s note: technically that’s a true statement since the Viking landers could not move around on Mars.) Earlier rovers first focused on and confirmed that Mars once had habitable conditions. See the mission goals here.
About five and a half hours after launch ULA CEO Tory Bruno shared a video on Twitter of the Mars 2020 cruise stage, with Perseverance and Ingenuity within, separating from the Centaur upper stage that carried it out from Earth orbit.
Learn more about the Perseverance rover and Mars 2020 mission below:
ULA and its heritage rockets have launched every U.S. led mission to Mars, beginning in the 1960s. The launch of this mission marks ULA’s 20th trip to the red planet and the 85th successful launch of an Atlas V rocket. The Atlas V has previously launched four missions to Mars, including the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter in 2005, the Curiosity rover in 2011, the MAVEN orbiter in 2013 and the InSight lander in 2018. To date ULA has launched 140 times with 100 percent mission success.