NASAs Perseverance rover began its journey to Mars on Thursday with a successful launch from Floridas Cape Canaveral. The ambitious mission will be NASAs first to look for signs of past life on Mars and follows Chinas own rover mission to the red planet earlier this month.
Perseverance carries a range of instruments to analyse rocks for the chemical signatures of life and is due to touch down on Mars in February 2021.
Its target is a 250-metre-deep crater called Jezero that more than 3 billion years ago was the site of a vast lake. Scientists believe it may hold traces of past microbial Martian life.
The €2.3bn ($2.7bn) rover will not only analyse the surface itself but also take and store samples to be collected by a future mission to Mars, and brought back to Earth for study.
“Mars used to be covered in water, at least the northern hemisphere of Mars was two thirds covered in ocean,” NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine told Reuters ahead of the launch.
“In fact, it was a lot like Earth and the question is we know it was habitable but was it in fact inhabited? And that is what we don't know, so we built a rover that is going to enable us to ask and answer those very important questions."
NASAs mission follows the launch earlier this month of a Chinese rover destined for the red planet in the latest sign of a growing space race between the two nations.
Called Tianwen-1 "Questions to Heaven", the Chinese probe is also expected toRead More – Source