Perseverance, NASA has the latest Mars rover, has finally set off on its journey to Mars. The spacecraft carrying the rover and its helicopter, Ingenuity, has launched to Mars on Thursday morning, at 7:50 a.m. ET, from Cape Canavarel, Florida. It was aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 541 rocket.
Meanwhile, the mission control team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory confirmed that the spacecraft’s signal came shortly after 9 a.m. ET.
“This signifies that JPL’s deep space network has locked on to the spacecraft, which is on its journey to Mars,” says launch manager at NASA’s Launch Services Program, Omar Baez.
At the press conference held after the launch, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine shared some news. According to him, teams were working to configure the ground stations of the Deep Space Network. This was so it could match the spacecraft’s signal after a slight issue right after the launch. A similar issue occurred during previous mission launches. The last mission to Mars was Curiosity’s, which launched in 2011. This is NASA’s ninth mission and fifth rover to land on Mars.
The Deep Space Network is responsible for communicating with spacecraft that are at a great distance from Earth. Such spacecraft include the Voyager probes, which are estimated to be billions of miles away from Earth. Moreover, as the spacecraft gets further, radio signals at the ground stations improve.
NASA’s Visionary Vanguards
“With the launch of Perseverance, we begin another historic mission of exploration,” Bridenstine said. “This amazing explorer’s journey has already required the very best from all of us to get it to launch through these challenging times. Now, we can look forward to its incredible science and to bringing samples of Mars home even as we advance human missions to the Red Planet. As a mission, as an agency, and as a country, we will persevere,” he continued.
Perseverance and Ingenuity will land on Mars, at Jezero Crater, on February 18, 2021.
Additionally, this is one of three space missions set to launch within this year. The other two are China’s Tianwen-1 and United Arab Emirates’ Hope Probe.