NASA’s most anticipated rover launch for the Mars Exploration Program has officially taken place. Millions watched the landmark lift-off that took place at 5:20 pm IST from the Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.
For the first time ever, a helicopter is also flying to Mars. The helicopter, dubbed Ingenuity, will test the technology to target different parts of the planet for different discoveries.
The vehicle passed through maximum dynamic pressure at forty-five seconds post-lift-off. Two and a half minutes into the flight, the vehicle was already travelling at 6000 mph. At 5:29 pm, the rocket separated from the first stage and was boosted to the orbit by the Centaur second stage.
Now that the launch has taken place, true celebrations will only begin when the rover lands successfully in February 2021.
Why Is This Mission A Big Deal?
Space enthusiasts and Mars lovers have been hooked to the news channels ever since Perseverance passed the launch readiness review on 27th July. This is not a surprise as the Perseverance rover is here to answer the million-dollar questions – “Did life exist on the Mars?” and “Can life exist on the planet in future?”. The samples collected by the rover will be analysed by scientists on Earth to draw a conclusion.
This is an essential mission because, until now, we know that Mars housed habitable conditions at one point in time. However, we do not know whether the planet was actually inhabited in these conditions. If somehow, we can establish that Mars was inhabited at one point in time, humanity’s dream of sending people to the red planet might perhaps come true someday.
The mission will include technology demonstrations such as the Mars Oxygen ISRU Experiment (MOXIE). Moxie will test whether the carbon-dioxide of Mars’ atmosphere can be converted to oxygen, which will be essential should humans be able to go to Mars.
Previously, we reported a comprehensive analysis talking about the latest Martian rover and the features that set it apart from the previous rovers. The Perseverance rover along with the Ingenious helicopter
NASA has partnered with the European Space Agency for Mission Mars Sample Return to take place in 2026. This launch is crucial to get back the samples from Mars for effective analysis on Earth.