Perseverance rover launches from Cape Canaveral in Florida. It will spend seven months travelling to Mars before landing in Jezero Crater near the planet’s equator.
Perseverance rover will travel 314 million miles to the Martian surface.
Project scientist Katie Stack Morgan says they believe the rover will be able to find a diverse set of samples at the crater because “We know it filled up with water and overflowed, Life as we know it requires water to survive and thrive and we think Jezero has all the building blocks to support life”.
The rocket for today’s mission is an Atlas V 541 that features a main core stage, a Centaur upper-stage, and four solid rocket motors
A 4lb (1.8kg) helicopter will ride to Mars attached to the belly of NASA’s Perseverance which being launched from Florida, is the first powered flight in Mars’ thin atmosphere although the red planet’s gravity makes it tricky. The robot lands on Mars in February, and will only search for evidence of life but also package rock samples for return to Earth labs, The lift-off of Perseverance on a United Launch Alliance Atlas rocket is timed for the start of a two-hour window that opens at 07:50 local time (12:50BST; 11:50 GMT). It will be the third mission to Mars this month after launches by the UAE and China. It takes seven months to reach the 40km wide near-equatorial bowl called Jezero Crater. Satellite images suggest this held a lake billions of years ago. Scientists will examine the rocks for signs of microbial activity- if ever that existed on the planet.
“We hope to capture some of the sounds of entry, descent, and landing and some of the sounds of driving around, merging that with the video we can take,” said Jim Bell, the principal investigator on the rover’s mast-mounted camera system, MastcamZ. The Moxie instrument will practice making oxygen from Mars’ carbon dioxide-dominated atmosphere.
Ingenuity’s twin, counter-rotating blades will have to spin extremely fast to get off the ground.
Jezero is named after a town in Bosnia-Herzegovina, which means lake in some Slavic languages. The 500m-deep bowl once saw huge volumes of water flow through the western wall to poll on the crater floor. Where the water entered it even deposited sediments to form a delta where Perseverance will try to land. Jezero displays multiple rock types, including clays and carbonates that have the potential to preserve the type of organic molecules that would show light at life’s bygone existence.