Skip to main content

NASA successfully launches its Perseverance rover on mission to Mars

NASA has successfully launched its Perseverance rover on its journey to Mars, where it should land in the Jezero crater on February 18, 2021.

The rover, along with the experimental Ingenuity helicopter, was launched atop an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 7:50 a.m. ET on Thursday, July 30.

How the launch proceeded

The Perseverance rover launches atop an Atlas V rocket
The Perseverance rover launches atop an Atlas V rocket on July 30, 2020. NASA TV

Forty five seconds after launch, the rocket hit max q (the point of the flight at which the vehicle reaches maximum dynamic pressure). Around two minutes after launch, the solid rocket boosters were no longer required and were jettisoned.

One and a half minutes after this, the payload fairing or nose cone which protected the Perseverance rover during the launch was no longer needed either. The fairing split into two halves and was allowed to fall away from the rocket.

Approximately four and a half minutes after launch at the rocket approached the edge of Earth’s atmosphere, the main booster was also jettisoned. This allowed the Centaur engine to begin its first burn, moving the craft into orbit.

This was followed by a period of 30 minutes of coasting, after which a second engine burn carried the rover out of orbit and pointed it toward Mars.

Around one hour after launch, the spacecraft successfully separated from the rocket.

At around 9:15 a.m. ET, mission control achieved signal acquisition, getting the first communications from the craft. This marked the final major milestone in the launch, with the rover now on its way to Mars safely.

About the rover

Engineers observe the first driving test for NASA's Mars 2020 Perseverance rover in a clean room at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, on Dec. 17, 2019.
Engineers observe the first driving test for NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover in a clean room at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, on Dec. 17, 2019. NASA/JPL-Caltech

The main goal of the Perseverance rover is to search for signs that there was once life on Mars. Scientists know that millions of years ago, Mars has considerable liquid water on its surface and was in many ways similar to Earth, and could potentially have hosted life.

The Perseverance rover will join NASA’s Curiosity rover and InSight lander on Mars, but it will investigate a different area of the planet called the Jezero crater.

This crater is of particular interest as it is the site of an ancient lake that has long since dried up. If there were ever microbial life on Mars, this would be the ideal location to find evidence of that.

In addition, the rover carries an experiment on board called MOXIE which intends to create oxygen from carbon dioxide, to pave the way for human exploration of the planet.

The rover is also accompanied by Ingenuity, a small helicopter which will become the first heavier-than-air vehicle to ever fly on another planet. If successful, this opens the door to a whole new approach to exploring Mars from the air in future missions.

Updated June 30: Added information about second burn, spacecraft separation, and signal acquisition.

Editors' Recommendations

Georgina Torbet
Georgina is the Digital Trends space writer, covering human space exploration, planetary science, and cosmology. She…
Watch a replica of NASA’s Mars helicopter take flight on Earth
NASA's Ingenuity helicopter.

Visitors to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Southern California at the weekend got to see a life-sized replica of the Ingenuity Mars helicopter take flight.

Ingenuity made history in April 2021 when it became the first aircraft to make a powered, controlled flight on another planet. It’s since gone on to complete more than 50 Mars flights and has even assisted NASA’s ground-based Perseverance rover by taking aerial images to help the JPL team plan safe and efficient routes across the Martian surface.

Read more
Ingenuity and Perseverance snap photos of each other on Mars
The Ingenuity helicopter on the surface of Mars, in an image taken by the Perseverance rover. Ingenuity recently made its 50th flight.

Everyone's favorite Mars double act, the Ingenuity helicopter and the Perseverance rover, have been traveling together recently after spending several months apart. As they explore the site of an ancient river delta in the Jezero crater, the pair have snapped images of each other that were recently shared by NASA.

The Perseverance's cameras caught this great shot of Ingenuity, which, as noted in the rover's Twitter post, is now considerably dustier than it was when it first deployed from under the rover's belly two years ago. In its two years on the red planet, Ingenuity has made more than 50 flights, which is incredible when you consider that it was designed to perform just five flights. During that time, Ingenuity had to take a break from long flights to deal with the cold martian winter, but since the beginning of the year, the helicopter has been back, making some of its longest flights yet.

Read more
NASA’s InSight lander looks into Mars to study the planet’s core
This artist’s concept shows a cutaway of Mars, along with the paths of seismic waves from two separate quakes in 2021. Detected by NASA’s InSight mission, these seismic waves were the first ever identified to enter another planet’s core.

NASA's Mars InSight lander may have come to the end of its mission last year, but data from the lander is still being used to contribute to science. Data that the lander collected on marsquakes, seismic events that are similar to earthquakes, has been used to get the best look yet at Mars's core.

The lander was armed with a highly sensitive seismometer instrument that could detect seismic waves as they moved through the martian interior. By looking at the way in which these waves bounced off boundaries and moved at different speeds through different materials, scientists can work out what the inside of a planet is composed of. The latest findings show that the martian core is around 2,220 miles across, which is smaller than previously thought. The core is also denser than previously believed The results also showed that around one-fifth of the core, which is made up of liquid iron alloy, is composed of sulfur, oxygen, carbon, and hydrogen.

Read more