Mars launch: NASA sends Perseverance rover to space

by 24USATVJuly 30, 2020, 5 p.m. 19
-

(CNN) The Perseverance rover and its Ingenuity helicopter are finally on the journey to Mars.

The spacecraft carrying the rover and helicopter successfully launched to Mars Thursday morning aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 541 rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida at 7:50 a.m. ET.

The team in the control center at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory confirmed they received the spacecraft's signal shortly after 9 a.m. ET.

"This signifies that JPL's deep space network has locked on to the spacecraft, which is on its journey to Mars," said Omar Baez, launch manager at NASA's Launch Services Program.

During a press conference after the launch, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine shared the news that teams were working to configure the ground stations of the Deep Space Network to match the spacecraft's signal after a slight issue this morning. But it's a familiar issue for previous missions heading to Mars, like Curiosity's launch during 2011.

But Matt Wallace, deputy project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, shared during the presser that the team had managed to lock on to the spacecraft's telemetry and "will start to get information very soon. All the indications we have are that the spacecraft is just fine," he said.

The Deep Space Network is designed to communicate with spacecraft that are at a great distance from Earth, like the Voyager probes, which are tens of billions of miles away. As the spacecraft gets further away from Earth, the reception at the radio signals at the ground stations will improve.

The Perseverance Twitter account, managed by NASA's social team, shared, "I am healthy and on my way to Mars, but may be too loud for the antennas on Earth while I'm so close. Ground stations are working to match my signal strength so that I can communicate clearly with my team."

Bridenstine also tweeted, "We had a good launch this morning, we're right on course for Mars and signal from @NASAPersevere is strong. We are working to configure the ground stations to match the strength of the spacecraft signal. This scenario is one we've worked through in the past with other missions."

"I'm exceptionally excited about what we're about to do because we're going to launch Mars 2020 with the Perseverance robot," said Bridenstine during a press briefing at Kennedy Space Center. "But there is so much more going on here. This is the first time in history where we're going to Mars with an explicit mission to find life on another world -- ancient life on Mars."

The Mars 2020 mission launch occurs after nearly a decade of hard work and planning by thousands of engineers, scientists and specialists at NASA centers across the country and their commercial partners.

During the final stages of mission preparation, teams had to manage the difficulties of the coronavirus pandemic.

"I really just cannot say enough about how incredible this team was," said Michael Watkins, director of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "They really knuckled down and completed this on schedule and we are ready to go. NASA really came together as a family and really it's just been a surprisingly smooth experience given all the troubles with Covid."

As many at NASA have said, the rover truly lives up to its name.

A second "brain" on the rover will help Perseverance to land in what would have been an impossible site before, strewn with hazards and obstacles. This Terrain Relative Navigation instrument will help Perseverance autonomously determine the safest place to land itself. Once on the surface of Mars, that computer will help the rover to "think while driving."

The rover will use a suite of new scientific instruments to explore Jezero Crater, the site of an ancient lake and river delta on Mars. The lake existed between 3.5 billion and 4 billion years ago when Mars was wetter, warmer and habitable.

Perseverance will search for signs of ancient microbial life that may have once existed on Mars during this time. It will collect and cache samples of rock cores and soil to be retrieved and returned to Earth by future planned missions. They will be the first Martian samples, apart from Martian meteorites, to be returned to Earth.

The samples are expected back on Earth by 2031 at the earliest, due to the complicated nature of the missions that will need to retrieve the samples before sending them back to Earth.

But once the samples have returned, the true quest to understand if life once existed on Mars could finally have an answer.

Perseverance promises to be an exciting two-year mission that will provide new perspectives of Mars. The rover has 23 cameras, some of which will be active during its harrowing entry, descent and landing. Many of these cameras are color, while some have new zoom capabilities and can even capture video.

The rover will also be able to "hear" Mars for the first time and is carrying two microphones to share the sounds of the red planet and even itself as the rover's wheels crunch across the rocky surface.

And Perseverance will even test technology that could be used to assist future human missions to Mars, including an oxygen generator, a spacesuit material experiment and instruments that can help to better understand the dust, climate and environment on Mars.

"This mission is special for a lot of reasons," Wallace said. "We're doing transformative science and looking for signs of life on another planet, among a lot of other firsts."

-

Related Articles

HOT TRENDS

Reduced rate won’t apply to July bills, PURA, Eversource say

by 24USATVAug. 4, 2020, 10 p.m.2
HOT TRENDS

Just how good is J. Cole at basketball?

by 24USATVAug. 4, 2020, 10 p.m.2
HOT TRENDS

Lakers’ Title Hopes Hinge On Anthony Davis — Not LeBron James

by 24USATVAug. 4, 2020, 10 p.m.2
HOT TRENDS

PSEG seeks alternatives for fossil fuel fleet

by 24USATVAug. 4, 2020, 7 p.m.2
HOT TRENDS

Even before explosion, Lebanon teetered toward ruin

by 24USATVAug. 4, 2020, 7 p.m.2
HOT TRENDS

Nikola Reports Earnings Today. Here’s What To Expect.

by 24USATVAug. 4, 2020, 6 p.m.2
HOT TRENDS

Crosby leads Penguins past Canadiens 3-1; Series tied 1-1

by 24USATVAug. 4, 2020, 6 p.m.2
HOT TRENDS

Podcast: Hawks lose 6-3 to the Oilers in Game 2

by 24USATVAug. 4, 2020, 6 p.m.2
HOT TRENDS

You Have to See Debby Ryan’s New TikTok

by 24USATVAug. 4, 2020, 5 p.m.2