Last Mars mission of 2020 ready for takeoff from Florida

The United States remains the only country to have successfully landed on Mars. If all goes well next February, Perseverance will become the ninth American spacecraft to operate on the Martian surface.

By Associated Press | Posted by Kanishka Sarkar | Cape Canaveral

UPDATE JUL 30, 2020 8:59 am IST

The third and final summer mission to Mars – featuring NASA’s most elaborate life-hunting rover – is about to take off.

The Perseverance rover will follow China’s rover-orbiter combo and a United Arab Emirates orbiter, both launched last week. It will take seven months for the spacecraft to reach Mars after traveling 300 million kilometers.

Once on the surface, Perseverance will search for evidence of past microscopic life in an ancient lake bed and assemble the most promising rock samples for future collection. NASA is teaming up with the European Space Agency to return the samples to Earth around 2031.

This unprecedented effort will involve multiple launches and spacecraft – and will cost more than $ 8 billion.

“We don’t know if life existed there or not. But we do know that Mars at one point in its history was habitable, ”NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said on the eve of the launch.

The United States remains the only country to have successfully landed on Mars. If all goes well next February, Perseverance will become the ninth American spacecraft to operate on the Martian surface.

First of all, however: good flight weather is forecast for the United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V rocket. The Denver-based rocket maker and its legacy companies launched all of NASA’s missions to Mars, starting with the Mariners in 1964.

ULA Director General Tory Bruno said Perseverance was arguably the most sophisticated and exciting of all Mars missions.

“We are literally snacking to take this nuclear buggy to Mars,” he said earlier this week.

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