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Perseverance heads to Mars

by Rachel Lynn Aldrich
Posted 7/30/20, 11:26 am

A 4.2-magnitude earthquake near NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California didn’t stop the next NASA Mars rover from lifting off in Florida on Thursday morning. The car-sized Perseverance craft and its collection of cameras, microphones, drills, and lasers launched into space on an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral. The rover, which was spearheaded by the NASA lab in Pasadena, should arrive on Mars in February 2021 at the end of a 300-million-mile journey.

What will Perseverance do? The rover will drill down into the surface of the red planet to collect geological specimens. If all goes well, researchers plan to have the craft return to Earth in 2031 so they can analyze the samples for signs of ancient life. The mission also will test technology for potential manned missions, including a helicopter that will take the first powered flight on another planet if it succeeds. China and the United Arab Emirates also launched spacecraft to Mars last week.

Dig deeper: Watch NASA’s video stream of the launch.

Editor’s note: WORLD has updated this report to clarify the location of the earthquake.

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Rachel Lynn Aldrich

Rachel is an assistant editor for WORLD Digital. She is a Patrick Henry College and World Journalism Institute graduate. Rachel resides with her husband in Wheaton, Ill.

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  • OldMike
    Posted: Thu, 07/30/2020 04:39 pm

    Amazing stuff!  A far cry from the beginnings of the US space program!  

  • Cyborg3's picture
    Posted: Sun, 08/02/2020 09:41 pm

    The air on Mars has little density meaning that the rotor blades of the helicopter have to be larger or faster. A few years ago, there was an effort to build a plane for Mars but the joke was that it was like a rocket with wings because the air has so little density. The butterfly effect is more pronounced on Mars where you could have one with a two foot wing span giving all kinds of extra lift. Some engineers were even looking at building a flapping winged airplane. Lightweight balloons have also been proposed but the concept needs very lightweight materials. 

  •  CaptTee's picture
    Posted: Fri, 07/31/2020 04:01 pm

    What earthquake? I've never felt one since moving to Florda over 26 years ago!

    Posted: Fri, 07/31/2020 10:00 pm

    Even though the actual launch was in Florida, key launch facilities such as NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory are located in Californa -- where the earthquake happened.

  • Cyborg3's picture
    Posted: Sun, 08/02/2020 04:05 am

    They don't have launch facilities at JPL! 

    Posted: Mon, 08/03/2020 12:23 am

    Cyborg3, you are correct; I made a poor choice of word order. According to the article at the link I provided, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory is one of the facilities “key to the launch” (not one of the “key launch facilities” – as I wrote in error). The project manager, located at JPL, was being interviewed when the earthquake struck. JPL was affected by the earthquake, but the launch itself was not.

    The first sentence of the article was poorly written, because it is very misleading. Either more detail should have been provided, or the earthquake should have been left out of the article: The next NASA Mars rover successfully lifted off from Cape Canaveral on Thursday morning. The launch was not delayed by an earthquake in California that affected Jet Propulsion Laboratories, one of the facilities key to the launch.

  • Cyborg3's picture
    Posted: Fri, 08/07/2020 07:23 pm

    Hannah, the writer was trying to be clever in writing style to get interest and it did make it confusing.