Last week marked a new era of space exploration, as NASA launched its latest rover to Mars, where it will hunt for signs of ancient life.
The Perseverance rover launched at 7:50 a.m. Eastern on July 30. The timely liftoff took place at the Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, where the rover was strapped atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 541 rocket.
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The mission, which was first announced more than seven years ago, will take Perseverance an additional six to seven months to reach its destination by February 18, 2021, after a journey of more than 314 million miles.
Testing, 1,2,3 — Before it was cleared for flight to Mars, the Perseverance rover had to undergo final testing to ensure robotic explorer was up to the task. Testing began April 6, lasting for three days at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The rover was lifted onto a special test fixture and slowly rotated around its x-axis, or the imaginary line that runs from its tail to its front, in order to test its center of gravity.
Precious Cargo — A week before launch, Perseverance was packed into a fairing nose cone that was maneuvered into place on top of the Atlas V rocket, which launched the rover to Mars. Before doing so, Perseverance had to pass its Flight Readiness Review.
Where the journey will end — Before it took off to begin its interplanetary journey, Perseverance tweeted its boarding pass to Mars. The boarding pass has the rover's destination, Jezero Crater. The 28-mile wide, 500-meter-deep crater once housed a lake estimated to have dried out 3.5 to 3.8 billion years ago. Therefore, it is the ideal location for Perseverance to hunt for signs of past microbial life.
View from the pad — The night before takeoff, Perseverance awaited its big day nestled into the Atlas rocket overnight. The rover is kept inside a protective aeroshell capsule.
The kid who named the rover — NASA held a nationwide contest to name the rover, announcing the name Perseverance in March. Alexander Mather, a seventh-grader and winner of the contest, poses next to the car-sized robot before it begins its journey to Mars.
It launched on time — And we have liftoff. Perseverance launched right on time, beginning its journey to Mars, which is located more than 60 million miles away.
One minute into the mission looks like this — A different view of the rocket as it soars through Earth's atmosphere, carrying the Perseverance rover along for its journey to Mars.
Space oddity — The Virtual Telescope Project, which offers real-time observations of the cosmos with remotely controlled telescopes, caught the Perseverance rover on its way to Mars through this series of images.
Rocket, man — Earthly onlookers waved goodbye to the rover as it launched onboard the Atlas V rocket, leaving behind a dusty trail that stretches into space.
Overview effect — A view from the Atlas V rocket as it soars above the Earth's surface three minutes after liftoff, carrying Perseverance for the first leg of its journey to Mars.
Separation Song — A little more than four minutes into flight, and the Perseverance rover bids farewell to the Atlas V rocket as the vehicle separates from the spacecraft in order to continue on its own journey to Mars through interplanetary space.
Hello, Ground Control — After separating from the rocket, Perseverance sent out its first signal to ground control and established contact with Earth down below. The signal was sent out through the Deep Space Network, a global network of antennas that manages communication with the spacecraft.
Arrival — The Perseverance rover is scheduled to land on Jezero Crater on February 18, 2021, where it will look for signs of past microbial life in the Martian rocks.
A planet of robots — Perseverance will carry a highly skilled team of detectives on board, its instruments S.H.E.R.L.O.C., (Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman & Luminescence for Organics & Chemicals) and WATSON, Wide Angle Topographic Sensor for Operations and eNgineering instrument, will look for microscopic clues in Martian rock.
Flight on another planet — Perseverance isn't venturing to Mars on its own. The Ingenuity helicopter will hitch a ride with the rover, and allow NASA to test out its ability to fly a helicopter on a planet other than Earth for the first time.
Data Transfer —The names of 10,932,295 people were etched onto Perseverance as part of NASA's "Send Your Name to Mars" campaign. The names were stenciled by electron beams and etched onto three tiny silicon chips the size of a fingernail.
Souvenirs — The Perseverance rover will carry a total of seven science instruments on board, allowing the robotic astrobiologist to conduct some rock sample analysis on Mars. The rover will collect samples of rocks and soil and set them aside for the first-ever sample return mission from another planet. The rock samples will be stored away in tubes in a well-identified place on the Martian surface and left there to be returned to Earth.
Live on Mars? — The mission will also test out conditions for possible human exploration of Mars by trialing a method of producing oxygen from the Martian atmosphere, characterizing environmental conditions such as water and dust on Mars, and looking for resources.
Cruise Control — On Friday, a day after its launch, Perseverance updated the world with its flight status. The rover is currently in cruise control, making its way to Mars in about six to seven months.
Real-Life Wall-E — Once on Mars, Perseverance will join another NASA rover, Curiosity, which has been roaming the Martian surface since 2012.
Now watch this: "NASA’s Race Against Time To Launch Perseverance Rover On Mars 2020"
"NASA’s Race Against Time To Launch Perseverance Rover On Mars 2020"