2020's final Mars mission poised for blastoff from Florida

2020's final Mars mission poised for blastoff from Florida

NASA's long-awaited Mars Perseverance Rover mission will launch today at 7:50 am EDT (11:50 GMT) on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

NASA's next-generation Mars rover Perseverance is set for liftoff from Florida's Cape Canaveral on Thursday on a mission to search for traces of potential past life on Earth's planetary neighbour.

"This is unlike any robot that we've sent to Mars before because it has the objective of astrobiology", Nasa Administrator Jim Bridenstine told Reuters in an interview.

The summer's third and final mission to Mars - featuring NASA's most elaborate life-hunting rover - is on the verge of liftoff.

"The launch of NASA's Perseverance rover and the UK's own Sample Fetch Rover vehicle, being developed in Stevenage, represents another critical step in building up our knowledge of life on the Red Planet".

Perseverance will also trial technologies to help astronauts make future expeditions to Mars. It is expected to reach Mars next February. The primary goal of the mission is to land the rover in jezero crater successfully.

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Perseverance also carries the Mars Ingenuity helicopter, a small drone designed for first-ever self-powered flight, which is also created to warm itself to survive the cold Martian night.

After it has landed, the rover will drill the rock, and obtain and store some promising rock core samples that could be transferred to a future mission that could then transport the samples for analysis on Earth. Another experiment called MOXIE will test a technique for turning the carbon dioxide in Mars' thin atmosphere to oxygen.

A laser-equipped camera system called SuperCam can detect organic compounds in rocks and soils from a distance of more than 20 feet. A crater that used to be a lake - Way explained this spot could also help answer the question about life on mars. This crater earlier used to be filled with water, and instruments on the rover will examine it for signs of ancient microbial life.

Perseverance is a highly refined version of Curiosity. That would then meet up with a rover to be launched by the European Space Agency (ESA) which would then make the trip all the way back to Earth for scientists to study.

"There's a lot of things that we need to be able to develop and discover", Bridenstine said, "so that when we get to Mars we can actually survive for long periods of time". Ingenuity will also complete at least five flights during its 30-day mission, each for a maximum of three minutes. "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".

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