(Image: © NASA)
NASA’s new Mars rover will launch toward the Red Planet this Thursday, July 30.
The Mars Perseverance rover will explore the planet for ancient habitable environments and signs of fossilized microbial life at Mars’ Jezero crater, which was once a lake.
The launch window opens at 7:50 a.m. EDT, according to NASA. Pre-launch coverage will begin at 7:00 a.m. EDT. The launch window will stay open until about 9:50 a.m. EDT, with opportunities to launch every five minutes in that two-hour timeframe. The pre-launch and launch will be livestreamed on Live Science.
Mars Perseverance is part of NASA’s Moon to Mars exploration approach, a program that aims to put a man and a woman back on the moon by 2024 in order to pave the way for eventual crewed missions to Mars.
If all goes according to plan, the 2,300-lb. (1,043 kilograms) rover is scheduled to arrive at the Jezero crater on Feb. 18, 2021. There, it will collect rock and soil samples and cache them for an eventual return to Earth. It will also measure climatic variables, such as dust and weather, which will help in understanding the potential of the area to support human habitation.
Among the cargo on Perseverance will be samples of spacesuit material designed with the Martian environment in mind. Because Mars has less atmosphere than Earth, its surface is bombarded with solar radiation and cosmic rays that can cause radiation sickness and cancer. The material samples will be tested for their protective capabilities. They include teflon, Gore-Tex and Vectran, a cut-resistant fabric that NASA engineers hope will work for spacesuit gloves on Mars.
The rover will also carry the first helicopter to ever attempt controlled flight on another planet, the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter. Weighing in at only 4 lbs. (1.8 kg), the little helicopter will have to lift off in Mars’ thin atmosphere, a feat that will require its four carbon-fiber blades to spin at a whopping 2,400 rpm.
If the ‘copter survives the launch and deployment at Jezero crater, it will have to manage to keep itself warm and charged with its own solar panels before scientists attempt its maiden flight, according to NASA.
On a lighter note, Perseverance will carry three dime-sized chips bearing the names of 10.9 million people who submitted them through the “Send Your Name to Mars” initiative. Any name submitted through the website now will be saved for a future mission to Mars.
The rover will launch aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The weather is expected to be favorable for the launch window, with sunny skies being forecast.
Originally published at Live Science.