CAPE CANAVERAL: Nasa’s next-generation Mars rover Perseverance blasted off from Florida’s Cape Canaveral on Thursday atop an Atlas 5 rocket on a $2.4 billion mission to search for traces of potential past life on Earth’s planetary neighbour.
The robotic rover — a car-sized six-wheeled vehicle carrying seven scientific instruments — also is scheduled to deploy a small helicopter on Mars and try out equipment for future human missions to the fourth planet from the sun. Its arrival at Mars is planned for Feb 18 at the site of an ancient river delta.
It soared into the sky from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 7:50am under clear, sunny and warm conditions carried by an Atlas 5 rocket from the Boeing-Lockheed joint venture United Launch Alliance. The launch took place after the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) facility in Pasadena, California, where its mission engineers were located was rattled by an earthquake.
JPL mission controllers established its first communication signal with the spacecraft some 90 minutes after liftoff, an affirmation that prompted applause and cheers in the California control room.
The robotic rover will also try out equipment for future human missions.