NASA’s highly anticipated Mars 2020 mission is all set for launch on Thursday, July 30.
The mission’s primary goals are to search for signs of ancient life, gather rock and soil samples for return to Earth at a later date, and collect data for future human exploration of the faraway planet.
While NASA’s Perseverance rover will carry out much of the work, the mission will also see an aircraft fly for the very first time on another planet when the Ingenuity helicopter lifts off from the Martian surface.
Just a couple of days before United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V rocket blasts off carrying Perseverance, Ingenuity, and also a piece of Mars rock, a new NASA video (below) offers a brief but informative overview of the ambitious mission.
Perseverance is a more advanced version of NASA’s Curiosity rover, which continues to explore Mars after arriving there in 2012.
About the size of a small car, NASA’s newest rover has six rugged wheels, a plethora of scientific instruments, a 2-meter-long robotic arm, 23 cameras, and, for the first time, a couple of microphones that will capture the possibly eerie sound of Martian winds — as well as any other noises that we don’t yet know about.
The Perseverance rover mission is scheduled to launch from Cape Canaveral in Florida at 7:50 a.m. on Thursday (here’s how to watch the event online). But space fans eager for updates from the Mars mission will have to be patient as the rover won’t reach its destination until February 2021.
There’s a lot of interest in Mars just now as a growing number of countries seek to reach the red planet. Just a few days ago China launched a rover and orbiter bound for Mars, and shortly before that the United Arab Emirates sent an orbiter. Meanwhile, preparations are currently underway for a joint European/Russian mission in 2022, with Japan and India also planning separate Mars missions in the next couple of years.
As for the first human mission, there are no concrete plans yet, though we could see an attempt some time in the 2030s, with NASA eyeing such a mission via its Artemis program.