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NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover mission — humanity’s most sophisticated rover — launched with the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter at 7:50 a.m. EDT (4:50 a.m. PDT) Thursday on a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

“With the launch of Perseverance, we begin another historic mission of exploration,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “This amazing explorer’s journey has already required the very best from all of us to get it to launch through these challenging times. Now we can look forward to its incredible science and to bringing samples of Mars home even as we advance human missions to the Red Planet. As a mission, as an agency, and as a country, we will persevere.”

Now we’re on the countdown to it landing at the Martian Jezero Crater on Feb. 18, 2021!

Learn More About the Launch and Mission

The ULA Atlas V’s Centaur upper stage initially placed the Mars 2020 spacecraft into a parking orbit around Earth. The engine fired for a second time and the spacecraft separated from the Centaur as expected. Navigation data indicate the spacecraft is perfectly on course to Mars.

The Perseverance rover’s astrobiology mission has three main goals:

The Martian rock and dust Perseverance’s Sample Caching System collects could answer fundamental questions about the potential for life to exist beyond Earth.

The Mars 2020 Perseverance mission is part of America’s larger Moon to Mars exploration approach that includes missions to the Moon as a way to prepare for human exploration of the Red Planet.

Learn More About It

Enjoy these fun facts about Perseverance: