NASA’s boldest-ever Mars rover is on its way to the Red Planet.
The car-size Perseverance rover launched atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Thursday, July 30 at 7:50 a.m. EDT (1150 GMT), kicking off a nearly seven-month cruise to the Red Planet.
After touching down inside the 28-mile-wide (45 kilometers) Jezero Crater in February 2021, Perseverance will do things no Mars rover has ever done — hunt for signs of life, collect samples for future return to Earth and deploy a miniature helicopter, to name a few.
“These are very, very exciting times,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said during a news conference on Monday (July 27). Perseverance is a “very important mission for the United States of America, and, of course, a very, very important mission for the world”.
The launch was made more exciting by an earthquake that rattled Perseverance’s mission control center at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. It did not affect the countdown aside from some surprised reactions from JPL commentators.
NASA celebrated the Mars launch in style, while also shifting its outreach for the mission online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Grammy-winner Gregory Porter sang “America, the Beautiful” from his home ahead of the mission. Virginia 7th-grader Alex Mather (who named Perseverance) and Alabama 11th grader Vaneeza Rupani (who named the rover’s helicopter Ingenuity) watched the launch in person.
Read more: Space