NASA Launches a New Rover to Mars on Thursday. Here's How to Watch the Launch Live.
Perseverance will start its seven-month journey to Mars on July 30.
If you're a space-faring robot, the cool thing to do right now is to plan a vacation on Mars. China's Tianwen-1 and the Hope Prob from the United Arab Emirates both just took off for the red planet. The European Space Agency and Roscosmos had to postpone the launch of ExoMars, but that's heading to Mars before too long as well.
This week, NASA is launching the Perseverance rover. The rover, which does not contain a nod to David Bowie, will be searching for life on Mars after it completes a seven-month trip that begins on July 30. You'll be able to watch live online as well as on TV when the rover's astrobiology mission starts on Thursday.
It's scheduled to take off at 7:50am ET on July 30 from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The "car-sized" vehicle will be the fifth rover NASA has put on the planet.
How to watch the mars rover launch
You can watch via NASA TV in the YouTube player (shown below). The broadcast begins at 7am ET with live commentary. However, NASA has planned a bunch of ways you're able to get involved through social media. Aside from broadcasting live on YouTube, Twitter, and NASA TV (if your carrier provides it), NASA has launched an augmented reality Mars filter, Mission Control filter, and a 3D rover filter.
NASA is also hosting a VR launch broadcast with Oculus on Facebook.
When will Perseverance arrive at Mars?
Perseverance is headed to the Jezero Crater on Mars and is expected to land on February 18, 2021. It's a seven-month trek starting aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket.
The crater once held a lake, with delta deposits and evidence that water flowed in and out of the crater. Those characteristics (among many others) made it an alluring place to hunt for signs that the planet once hosted microscopic life.
Once the rover arrives, Perseverance will parachute to the surface and begin its approximately two-(Earth)year mission to explore the Martian surface. It's equipped with a robotic arm, high-resolution cameras, and advanced scientific equipment that will help scientists look for signs of whether life ever existed on Mars. That equipment includes more cameras than any previous interplanetary mission in history. Additionally, Perseverance will have microphones on board, which will record the sounds of the Martian landscape.
The launch will also be carrying the Ingenuity Helicopter, which is a small helicopter that can explore the landscape. It's a test flight for the concept. The four-pound helicopter will be the first aircraft to try a controlled flight on another planet.
Moreover, the rover will be collecting samples from the planet in tubes. The hope is that future missions will be able to retrieve those samples and get them back to Earth, possibly by 2031. It's an exciting mission with the potential for breakthrough scientific discoveries and awe-inspiring images and sounds from the planet.