Mars 2020 rover mission healthy and on its way

The latest mission to find ancient life on Mars has been launched into space

Filipinos top signup for NASA's 'Send Your Name to Mars'

"There would be no bigger discovery in the history of humanity than finding life that is not on our own world", NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said.

The launch took place after the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) facility in Pasadena, California, where its mission engineers were located, was rattled by an natural disaster. "Now we can look forward to its incredible science and to bringing samples of Mars home even as we advance human missions to the Red Planet". Navigation data indicate the spacecraft is perfectly on course to Mars.

That's where a separate orbiting spacecraft, provided by ESA and also launched from Earth in 2026, would rendezvous with the sample return container and ferry it back to Earth.

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"Jezero Crater is the flawless place to search for signs of ancient life", said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in a press release.

The "Send Your Name to Mars" program of NASA allows individuals around the globe to "fly" their names in its future missions to the Red Planet.

The first single to the ground controller was sent at 9:15 am (1315 GMT ) by Mars 2020 but it was not until 11:30 am (1530 GMT) that it established telemetry that is a more detailed spacecraft data.

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Scientists have long debated whether Mars - once a much more hospitable place than it is today - ever harbored life.

Among the many high-tech tools on board the Perseverance, the Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment, or MOXIE, is created to prove that it is in fact possible to convert Martian carbon dioxide into oxygen. The Mars Perseverance rover only has a short window of opportunity, and that was nearly missed due to the pandemic.

The rover launched with the Ingenuity Mars helicopter on Thursday on board a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. "Next stop, Jezero Crater".

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The United States plans to send astronauts to Mars in the 2030s under a program that envisions using a return to the moon as a testing platform for human missions before making the more ambitious crewed Martian voyage.

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