The Perseverance Mars rover will be blasted off from Florida’s Cape Canaveral shortly before midday today in what will be the third mission to the Red Planet this month
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A mission to Mars that will hopefully see a helicopter fly on another planet for the first time is due to take off this morning.
It follows the UAE’s Hope probe on July 19 and China’s Tianwen-1 launch seven days ago.
Aboard Perseverance is a four-pound (1.8 kg) autonomous helicopter named Ingenuity that is due to test powered flight on Mars for the first time.
“We as human beings have never flown a rotorcraft, a helicopter, anywhere outside of Earth’s atmosphere, so it’s really a Wright Brothers moment on another planet,” said MiMi Aung, Ingenuity’s lead engineer, during the press conference, New Scientist reported.
In the future such helicopters could be used to scope out inaccessible areas or as scouts for rovers and astronauts.
The purpose of the mission is to search for traces of potential past life on Earth’s planetary neighbour.
The car-sized six-wheeled robotic rover will launch atop an Atlas 5 rocket from the Boeing-Lockheed joint venture United Launch Alliance.
The weather forecast from the Air Force’s 45th Weather Squadron put chances of an undisturbed liftoff at 80%.
There is a slim chance that thick clouds would form over the launchpad and delay the launch.
The dried out lake was formed 3.5 billion years ago and scientists suspect that it could bear evidence of potential past microbial life on Mars.
Scientists have long debated whether Mars – once a much more hospitable place than it is today – ever harbored life.
One of the most complex maneuvers in Perseverance’s journey will be what mission engineers call the “seven minutes of terror,” when the robot endures extreme heat and speeds during its descent through the Martian atmosphere.
As it does so it will deploy a set of supersonic parachutes before igniting mini rocket engines to gently touch down on the planet’s surface.
NASA, Mars 2020, Rover
World news – GB – Watch live as NASA launches new mission to Mars in search for signs of life