NASA: Now the Perseverance rover and his Ingenuity helicopter are on their way to Mars. The rover and helicopter-carrying spacecraft successfully launched a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 541 rocket from Cape Canaveral , Florida at 7:50 a.m. to Mars Thursday morning. ET: ET. The team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in the control center confirmed they received the spacecraft’s signal shortly after 9 a.m. ET: ET.
“It means JPL’s deep space network has been integrated into the spacecraft on its way to Mars,” said Omar Baez, NASA’s Launch Services Program’s project manager.
NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine shared the news at a post-launch press conference that teams were working to upgrade the Deep Space Network ground stations to suit the spacecraft’s signal following a minor issue this morning. But for previous missions going to Mars this is a familiar question, including the launch of Curiosity during 2011.
Yet Matt Wallace, deputy project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, shared during the presser that the team had managed to focus on the telemetry of the spacecraft and “will begin to get details very quickly,” he said. All the indications we have are that the spacecraft is just fine.
The Deep Space Network is built to interact with spacecraft that are at a great distance from Earth, much like the tens of billions of miles away from the Voyager probes. When the spacecraft gets farther away from Earth, the reception at the ground station’s radio signals should increase.
The Perseverance Twitter account, managed by NASA ‘s social team, shared, “I’m safe and on my way to Mars, but might be too noisy for the Earth’s antennas when I’m so close. Ground stations work to match my signal strength so I can interact easily with my team.”
Bridenstine also tweeted, “We’ve had a successful launch this morning, we ‘re right on track for Mars and the signal from @NASAPersevere is high. We ‘re working to configure the ground stations to suit the strength of the spacecraft signal.
Students Alex Mather and Vaneeza Rupani, who earlier this year called the rover and his accompanying helicopter during two national competitions, attended for launch.
JPL control center in Pasadena, California experienced some earthquake activity ahead of this morning ‘s launch, but it didn’t affect launch.
“I’m really excited about what we’re about to do because we’re going to fly March 2020 with a Perseverance robot,” NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said during the Kennedy Space Center press conference. “But there’s so much more going on here. It’s the first time we ‘re going to Mars with an specific quest to discover life on another planet — ancient Mars life.”
Perseverance is expected to land at Jezero Crater on Mars on February 18, 2021 after flying across space for about seven months.
The launch of the Mars 2020 mission takes place after almost a decade of hard work and preparation by thousands of engineers, scientists, and specialists at NASA centers around the world, along with their business partners.
Teams also had to navigate the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic during the final stages of mission planning.
“I can’t really even say enough about how amazing this team was,” said Michael Watkins, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory director. “They really knuckled down and completed this on time so we’re ready to go. NASA really came together as a team so it’s really all been a really smooth process considering all of Covid ‘s problems.”
Like others have said at NASA, the rover really lives up to his reputation.
It’s one of three missions that will have launched to Mars this summer, including China’s Tianwen-1 (who is carrying a rover) and the United Arab Emirates’ Hope Probe. That’s because every 26 months, when the Earth and Mars are in conjunction on the same side of the sun, chances to travel to Mars occur, allowing shorter trip times and less fuel.
Perseverance bears the names of 11 million people who applied to NASA’s “Send Your Name to Mars” initiative, as well as a plaque that recognizes global health workers in the midst of the pandemic — and some celestial sculpture.
It’s NASA ‘s ninth landing mission on the red planet and its first rover. The concept of perseverance and new skills draw upon lessons learned from past rovers. This rover is designed to serve as an astrobiologist, testing for signs of ancient life an interesting location on Mars.
A second “head” on the rover will help Perseverance land, strewn with hazards and obstacles, in what would have been an difficult position before. This instrument of Terrain Relative Navigation will help Perseverance assess the safest place to land itself autonomously. When that machine is on Mars land, it can help the rover “think while driving.”
The rover will also be able to “hear” Mars for the first time and holds two microphones to share the red planet’s sounds and even itself as the rover’s wheels grind across the rocky terrain.
And Perseverance will also study technologies that may be used to assist potential human missions to Mars, including an oxygen generator, a material space-suit device, and instruments that will help us understand Mars’ dust, atmosphere, and weather.
“For a great many reasons, this project is remarkable,” Wallace said. “We ‘re doing groundbreaking research and searching, among many other firsts, for signs of life on another planet.”