NASA’s next-generation Mars rover Perseverance is set for liftoff from Florida’s Cape Canaveral on Thursday on a mission to search for traces of potential past life on Earth’s planetary neighbor. The US space agency’s $2.4 billion mission is scheduled for launch at 7:50 am ET (1150 GMT) and is expected to reach Mars in February 2021.
As the countdown begins for the liftoff, NASA is inviting people on-board to join them for the launch and is giving boarding passes for the same.
“NOW BOARDING: I’m ready to fly; are you? Grab your boarding pass and let’s go. #CountdownToMars. Get your boarding pass: http://go.nasa.gov/30YUt2j. New flyer? Send your name on a future mission: http://go.nasa.gov/3fa0qOK (sic),”it wrote in a tweet.
The car-sized six-wheeled robotic rover, which will launch atop an Atlas 5 rocket from the Boeing-Lockheed joint venture United Launch Alliance, also is scheduled to deploy a mini helicopter on Mars and test out equipment for future human missions to the fourth planet from the sun.
“This is the ninth time we’ve landed on Mars, so we do have experience with it,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine told Reuters in an interview on Wednesday. It is the latest launch from Earth to Mars during a busy month of July, following probes sent by the United Arab Emirates and China.
Perseverance is due to land at the base of an 820-foot-deep (250 meters) crater called Jezero, a former lake from 3.5 billion years ago that scientists suspect could bear evidence of potential past microbial life on Mars. Scientists have long debated whether Mars – once a much more hospitable place than it is today – ever harbored life.
People are excited for the launch and are already queuing up on Twitter to get their boarding passes.
My pass..! I am always with you.. let’s gooooo,So excited as very few hours are left for us to spend time with each other… Then we will be meeting each other on the brighter side. No matter how far you are going from us, but you will always be close to me, close to mankind.🇺🇲💙 pic.twitter.com/LE28ZDDbyt
— Chaitanya Agrawal (@Chaitan22029848) July 30, 2020
The United States has plans to send astronauts to Mars in the 2030s under a program that envisions using a return to the moon as a testing platform for human missions before making the more ambitious crewed journey to Mars.
Perseverance will conduct an experiment to convert elements of the carbon dioxide-rich Martian atmosphere into propellant for future rockets launching off the planet’s surface, or to produce breathable oxygen for future astronauts.
(With inputs from Reuters)