(Reuters) – NASA’s next-generation Mars Rover Fortitude exploded off Cape Canaveral in Florida on Thursday, killing an Atlas 5 rocket on a $ 2.4 billion mission to find traces of possible past life on Earth’s planet neighbor.
The next-generation robot rover – the size of a six-wheeled vehicle carrying seven scientific instruments – is also scheduled to deploy a mini helicopter to Mars and try out equipment for future humanitarian missions from the sun to the fourth planet is. Its arrival on Mars is planned for February 18 at the site of an ancient river delta.
It skyrocketed from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 7:50 am EDT (1150 GMT), under clear, sunny and warm conditions by Boeing-Lockheed’s Atlas 5 rocketThe restriction) (LMT.N) Joint Venture Joint Launch Alliance. The launch followed the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) facility in Pasadena, California, where its mission engineers were located.
“The spacecraft is on good health and on its way to Mars,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstein wrote on Twitter.
JPL mission controllers installed their first communication signal with the spacecraft 90 minutes after liftoff, a confirmation that caused applause and cheers in the California control room.
This marked NASA’s ninth voyage to the surface of Mars.
“It’s really kind of the key to a whole bunch of new research that we’re doing that focuses on the question … is there life?” Thomas Zurbuchen, head of the space agency’s science division, said on a NASA live stream after launch.
Jet Propulsion Laboratory Director Mike Watkins quipped about the California earthquake: “It was just excited to go to Earth on Mars. This was a very minor incident. Everything is fine, and we are on the way to Mars. ”
Due to the ground at the base of an 820-foot deep (250 m) pit called Jejero, the former lake and water system site dating back 3.5 billion years, scientists suspect that there may be potential evidence of past microbiological life.
Scientists have long debated whether Mars – once more a hospitable place than it is today – ever harsh life. Water is considered an important component to life, and Mars had plenty on the surface billions of years ago before the planet became a rigid and desolate outpost.
This was the third launch from Earth to Mars this month after investigations sent by the United Arab Emirates and China.
US Vice President Mike Pence wrote on Twitter, “Today is a great day for American leadership in space!”
Currently Florida is one of the American hot spots for coronovirus epidemics.
The Aboard Perseverance is a four-pound (1.8 kg) autonomous helicopter named Ingenuity due to a test-driven flight over Mars. 99% less dense atmosphere than Earth – posing a challenge to Ingenuity, which was designed for light, with rotor blades that are larger and as fast as needed for a helicopter of its mass on Earth Let’s spin more than that.
Since NASA’s first Mars Rover Sojourner landed in 1997, the agency has sent two others – Spirit and Opportunity – who have explored the geology of the expansionist Martian plains and detected signs of past water structures. NASA has also successfully sent three landers: Pathfinder, Phoenix, Insight.
The United States plans to send astronauts to Mars as part of a program in the 2030s that uses the return to the moon as a test platform for human missions before the more ambitious crew travels to Mars. Does.
Perseverance will conduct an experiment to convert elements of the carbon dioxide-enriched atmosphere into propellant for rockets that launch future rockets or to produce breathable oxygen for future astronauts. The rover will collect and store rock and soil samples for the purpose of returning to Earth in the future.
Reporting by Joey Roulette in Washington; Editing by Will Dunham