NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover mission — humanity’s most sophisticated rover — launched with the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter at 7:50 a.m. EDT (4:50 a.m. PDT) Thursday on a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
“With the launch of Perseverance, we begin another historic mission of exploration,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “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.”
Now we’re on the countdown to it landing at the Martian Jezero Crater on Feb. 18, 2021!
Learn More About the Launch and Mission
The ULA Atlas V’s Centaur upper stage initially placed the Mars 2020 spacecraft into a parking orbit around Earth. The engine fired for a second time and the spacecraft separated from the Centaur as expected. Navigation data indicate the spacecraft is perfectly on course to Mars.
The Perseverance rover’s astrobiology mission has three main goals:
- seek out signs of past microscopic life on Mars,
- explore the diverse geology of its landing site, Jezero Crater, and
- demonstrate key technologies that will help us prepare for future robotic and human exploration.
The Martian rock and dust Perseverance’s Sample Caching System collects could answer fundamental questions about the potential for life to exist beyond Earth.
The Mars 2020 Perseverance mission is part of America’s larger Moon to Mars exploration approach that includes missions to the Moon as a way to prepare for human exploration of the Red Planet.
Learn More About It
Enjoy these fun facts about Perseverance:
- Perseverance will spend about one Mars year (two Earth years) exploring the landing site, Jezero Crater.
- Jezero is a town in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and in 2007 the International Astronomical Union (IAU) named the 28-mile-wide (45-kilometer-wide) giant impact basin on the western edge of Isidis Planitia — just north of the Martian equator — Jezero Crater.
- Perseverance will carry seven instruments to conduct unprecedented science and test new technology on Mars.
- Perseverance rover is car-sized: it’s about 10 feet long (not including the arm), 9 feet wide, and 7 feet tall (about 3 meters long, 2.7 meters wide, and 2.2 meters tall).
- The rover is testing new technology, such as an autopilot for avoiding hazards called Terrain Relative Navigation and a set of sensors for gathering data during the landing.
- Perseverance will be able to see beneath the Martian surface thanks to Radar Imager for Mars’ Subsurface Experiment (RIMFAX), a ground-penetrating radar that will provide centimeter-scale resolution of the geologic structure of the subsurface.