NASA Launches Mars 2020 Mission to Red Planet

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket with NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover onboard launches from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Thursday, July 30, 2020, from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The Perseverance rover is part of NASA’s Mars Exploration Program, a long-term effort of robotic exploration of the Red Planet. (Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky)

An United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V roared off a launch pad in Florida on Thursday, sending the Mars Perseverance rover to a landing on the Red Planet next February.

Atlas V lifted off on schedule at 7:50 EDT from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Controllers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California received a signal from the spacecraft about 1 hour 25 minutes after launch.

Perseverance will explore Jezero crater and collect samples for later retrieval and return to Earth by a joint U.S.-European mission planned for later this decade.

Perseverance carries a small helicopter, Ingenuity, that will become the first vehicle to fly on another world. The rover also includes an experiment that will produce oxygen from carbon dioxide in the planet’s atmosphere.

It was the third and final mission to Mars sent during this launch window. China launched an orbiter, lander and rover and the United Arab Emirates launched an orbiter earlier in July.