NASA is hours away from launching its Perseverance Mars rover from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on 30 July. We'll share a live stream once it's available. In the meantime, here's what you need to know.
Mars rover Perseverance is 'go for launch'
What is Perseverance?
Perseverance is NASA newest Mars rover. It is designed to search for "astrobiological evidence of ancient microbial life on Mars". It will take the rover about seven months to reach the red planet.
The rover will land at the Jezero Crater on 18 February 2021 where it will gather rock and soil samples. It will also "characterise the planet's climate and geology and pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet".
This image, taken by the Hubble telescope back in 1999, shows were Perseverance will land.
The yellow mark shows the area where Perseverance will land on 18 February 2021. Image with Twitter: @NASAHubble
Perseverance weighs 1 043 kilograms and will be the first Mars rover equipped with a helicopter. The Ingenuity Mars Helicopter is "a technology demonstration that marks the first attempt at powered, controlled flight on another planet".
Ingenuity Mars Helicopter
In addition to being the first test of powered flight on another planet, the helicopter is powerful enough to lift off in Mars' thin atmosphere, which is approximately less than 1% the density of Earth's atmosphere.
You'd need a sturdy helicopter to survive the harsh Martian environment. The Ingenuity helicopter was "built to be light and strong enough to stow away under the rover while on the way to Mars", NASA said in a statement.
It weighs only 1.8 kilograms and could fly for up to 90 seconds to distances of almost 300 metres at a time while hovering approximately three to 4.5 metres from the ground. It can also fly on its own without human control.
Mission Overview: NASA's Perseverance Mars Rover
When is liftoff?
The car-sized Perseverance rover is ready to take the Mars mission to the next level with a scheduled to launch on Thursday 30 July 2020. The two-hour launch window opens at 13:50 South African Standard Time (SAST).
NASA on Tuesday readied the spacecraft and completed most of the checks before Perseverance will catch a ride to the red planet atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
NASA also reported that mission team members "have some wiggle room if technical issues or bad weather scuttle the Thursday attempt". If anything goes wrong tomorrow, there is room for a delay in liftoff. NASA explains:
"Mars 2020 can still make its way to the Red Planet as long as it launches by 15 August 2020. After that, the mission would have to wait 26 months, until Mars and Earth are properly aligned again for interplanetary journeys".
Thanks to the worldwide pandemic, members of the public can attend the launch virtually and will be privy to information usually released to on-site guests only. During the launch, you could look forward to:
a behind-the-scenes look at the mission
- augmented reality filters[*]access to an engaging NASA social community[*]an invitation to submit videos to be part of the televised launch broadcast[*]tool kits for student[*]a chance to take a souvenir photo in the Mars Photo Booth[*]the opportunity to send your name to Mars.
"During these challenging times, no matter where you are, you can participate in this launch and help send this robotic geologist on a mission to explore worlds beyond our own".Michael Greene, director for communications and education at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Watch: NASA prepares for launch
Wondering how I’ll collect rock and sediment samples on Mars? Or how they'll make it back to Earth? Experts from @NASA and @ESA will be live on https://t.co/yoYs5YcZqr at 11a PT (2p ET/1800 UTC) to discuss Mars Sample Return plans.July 28, 2020