- NASA is finally ready to get its Mars 2020 mission underway after months of hard work preparing the hardware in the midst of a pandemic.
- The mission launch window opens at 7:50 a.m. EDT and will remain open for two hours.
- Perseverance and the Mars helicopter are expected to reach the Red Planet on February 18th, 2021.
To say that NASA’s Mars 2020 mission — which includes the Perseverance rover and the Mars helicopter — has had a rough road to launch day would be a massive understatement. The space agency had to battle a global pandemic and a host of delays before it was finally ready to send its hardware skyward. Now, it seems everything has lined up and NASA can finally get its historic mission underway.
The launch of the Mars 2020 mission will take place within a launch window that opens at 7:50 a.m. EDT. The launch window will remain open for two full hours, allowing ample time for kinks to be worked out if any should arise. As always, NASA will be providing a live stream of the launch so we can all enjoy it from the safety and comfort of our browsers.
The Perseverance rover will be launched from Cape Canaveral on top of an Atlas 5 rocket from United Launch Alliance. It will take months for the mission to reach the Red Planet, and the mission will arrive at Mars on February 18th, 2021. That might seem like an impossibly accurate prediction but NASA is pretty good at math so we’ll have to take their word for it.
The Perseverance rover is the most advanced Mars rover to date, not to mention the largest. It’s a massive machine that is capable of conducting a variety of scientific investigations on its own, but it will also be tasked with collecting and preparing samples of Mars to be collected later and sent back to Earth for additional study.
Like its predecessor Curiosity, Perseverance is nuclear powered, giving it freedom of movement regardless of the conditions of the Martian skies. The Opportunity rover famously died after 14 years on the Red Planet when a massive planet-wide dust storm cut off the solar-powered rover’s only method of recharging its batteries.
NASA’s live stream of the launch can be viewed via the embedded YouTube window above. The channel is live 24 hours a day, but NASA’s live coverage of the launch will begin around 7:00 a.m. EDT, or around 50 minutes before the launch window opens.
The fact that NASA has even made it possible to launch the mission in the midst of all the weird things going on in the world right now is a near miracle. Hopefully, once the rover and its tiny helicopter stowaway reach the Martian surface, it will return some equally miraculous findings.