NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover rolls to launch pad, ready to search for ancient life

NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover is ready for launch after completing a half-mile journey from the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Vertical Integration Facility (VIF) to the LC-41 launch pad in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

“Our Atlas V rocket has arrived at its Cape Canaveral pad for Thursday’s launch to Mars,” ULA’s official live blog announced. “Over the next few hours today, umbilical connections will be made with launch pad systems, the environmental control system feeding conditioned air to the rocket and payload will be switched to facility supplies to allow the portable trailers used during rollout to be unplugged and moved away.”

Once post-rollout operations are complete, Perseverance’s next big step will be a seven-hour countdown to launch set to begin Thursday morning with liftoff scheduled for 7:50 am EDT. “The launch weather forecast remains unchanged with an 80 percent chance of favorable conditions to allow liftoff on Thursday afternoon,” ULA’s page stated in a nod to a frequent culprit of launch scrubs. As long as the weather cooperates and the rocket’s systems are performing as they should, Mars will only be a seven-month journey away for the US’s latest deep space traveler.

The rover’s Martian landing destination will be a 28-mile-wide crater named Jezero (translation: “lake”) thought to have held water billions of years ago. NASA has made the primary mission astrobiological, meaning most onboard instruments are focused on finding signs of ancient microbial life on the red planet. A few other unique technologies are also on board for testing, including a small helicopter and a carbon dioxide-to-oxygen converter.

NASA’s Perseverance Rover and Ingenuity Helicopter depicted on Mars. | Credit: NASA/JPL

NASA and ULA announced the completion of Perseverance’s flight readiness reviews yesterday and took questions in two separate live-streamed conferences. Particular attention was given to the team’s challenging working conditions under the COVID-19 pandemic and how they still managed to keep the mission on schedule. Perseverance will carry a special plaque commemorating the achievement, in yet another tribute to the rover’s “strong” name.

The launch will be live online, as usual, via NASA’s social media channels.

NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover rolls to launch pad, ready to search for ancient life
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