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NASA's long-awaited Mars Perseverance Rover mission successfully launched today at 7:50 am EDT (11:50 GMT) on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
The rover will now travel about seven months until it lands in Mars' Jezero Crater. The mission will last at least one Mars year (about 687 Earth days).
The goal is to search for extraterrestrial signs of life, explore the Red Planet's geology, bring back the sounds of the planet for the first time, and more. Perseverance will also carry two small slices of Martian meteorites back to the planet as part of an experiment.
The mission will also see suit material tested. This will help determine the future spacesuits that astronauts will wear on missions.
The mission will also see the launch of the Mars helicopter. Called Ingenuity, the helicopter will serve to test powered flight on another world for the first time.
The helicopter will conduct a series of flight tests over a 30-Martian-day experimental window that will begin sometime in the spring of 2021. The first flight will be extremely simple.
The helicopter will take off only a few feet from the ground. It will hover in the air for about 20 to 30 seconds, and land. As short as this flight will be it will mark a significant milestone: the very first powered flight in the atmosphere of Mars.
Finally, Perseverance will drill for Martian rock samples and blast them into orbit by a rocket. A new Airbus satellite will then grab the packaged samples and send them home. This part of the mission will serve to determine whether life has ever existed on the Red Planet.
In order to achieve all this, Perseverance will need a strong power source. That's why the rover has been equipped with nuclear energy.
Overall, it seems like the Perseverance Mars mission will be NASA's most exciting yet. We can't wait till all the findings are returned.
The launch will be live-streamed here: