NASA sends ‘Perseverance’ rover off to Mars in the hopes of finding alien life

NASA’s Perseverance rover is on its way to Mars! The spacecraft carrying NASA‘s latest planet explorer launched from Florida’s Cape Canaveral at 9:50 pm AEST last night.

The launch was successful, with NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine tweeting: “We had a good launch this morning, we’re right on course for Mars and signal from @NASAPersevere is strong.”

NASA’s latest Mars rover, Perseverance, launched from Florida last night with hopes of discovering signs of former life on the red planet.

Perseverance is a car-sized, six-wheeled vehicle containing two “brains” that will help it gain access to sites that were previously impossible to reach. It’s being accompanied by a mini-helicopter named Ingenuity that will conduct test flights over Mars and be the first helicopter to fly over another planet.

Perseverance’s designated landing spot, a massive 250-meter-deep crater called Jezero, is believed to contain evidence of past microbial life on the red planet.

Timing for the launch had to be just right, as expeditions to Mars must occur when both Earth and Mars are aligned on the same side of the sun. These opportunities only occur once every 26 months, so if NASA missed this window of opportunity the mission would have been delayed to 2022.

This is NASA’s ninth mission to land on Mars and Perseverance is their fifth rover. It’s not the only spacecraft making the journey to our closest neighbour though, with both China and the United Arab Emirates sending probes to Mars earlier this month.

Onboard Perseverance is the names of eleven million people who submitted themselves to the “Send Your Name To Mars” campaign, as well as a plaque paying tribute to healthcare workers amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The mission is expected to run for over a decade, with an anticipated return date for Perseverance around 2031.