Mars 2020 rover mission healthy and on its way

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Managed by JPL, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, California, the Mars 2020 Perseverance rover is part of a larger program that includes missions to the Moon as a way to prepare for human exploration of the Red Planet.

Humanity's most sophisticated rover launched with the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter at 750 am EDT (450 am PDT) Thursday on a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

The team controlling the rover has received telemetry or detailed spacecraft data from the spacecraft and has also been able to send commands up to the spacecraft, according to Matt Wallace, the mission's deputy project manager.

The rover will travel for seven months and is expected to reach the planet's Jezero Crater to study the landing site's geology, demonstrate technologies in support of future human and robotic space exploration and collect and return rock samples to Earth.

"Jezero Crater is the flawless place to search for signs of ancient life", said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate at the agency's headquarters in Washington.

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NASA's Perseverance rover is on its way to Mars and on February 18, 2021, it is scheduled to land on the red planet's Jezero Crater.

The spaceship has left the Earth's shadow and the temperature now normal.

True to this agonizing year that is 2020, yesterday's launch of NASA's Perseverance Mars rover was not without problems. In the first few hours after liftoff, retrieving precise location and positioning data from the spacecraft was hampered in a brief "communications issue", NASA officials said, involving the agency's global network of antennas used to communicate with its most distant probes.

Scientists have long debated whether Mars - once a much more hospitable place than it is today - ever harboured life. Perseverance also will collect and store rock and soil samples meant to be returned to Earth in the future. "Next stop, Jezero Crater".

The launch took place after the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) facility in Pasadena, California, where its mission engineers were located, was rattled by an natural disaster.

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