NASA’s Perseverance rover will depart Cape Canaveral Thursday on a $2.7 billion mission to Mars, carrying with it the first interplanetary aircraft, sophisticated instruments to search for signs of ancient life, and drill to core samples for eventual return to Earth.
Building on past discoveries at the Red Planet, the nuclear-powered robot will aim to become NASA’s ninth mission to land on Mars, and the first since the Viking landers of the 1970s charged with seeking evidence of life.
NASA’s Perseverance rover — the centerpiece of the agency’s Mars 2020 mission — is set for launch Thursday from Cape Canaveral during a two-hour window opening at 7:50 a.m. EDT (1150 GMT). A United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket will fire spacecraft away from Earth with a relative velocity of 24,785 mph, or about 11 kilometers per second.
That’s enough speed to break free of Earth’s gravitational grip and speed toward Mars, aiming for the point in space where the Red Planet will be Feb. 18, 2021, the Mars 2020 mission’s designated landing date.