Look out, Mars: US to send sample-collecting rover

Pablo Tucker
July 30, 2020

The journey to Mars will take seven months and cover a 292-million-mile path through the solar system before the spacecraft touches down next February.

This means that it takes less power to travel to Mars at this time, compared to other times when Earth and Mars are in different positions in their orbits around the Sun.

With a targeted launch date of July 30, 2020, the next robotic scientist NASA is sending to the Red Planet has big ambitions. Here's what you'll want to know about the Perseverance rover and why it's our best bet yet for finding evidence. You can watch the launch live right here, with the NASA broadcast scheduled to begin at 9pm AEST.

Now it's NASA's turn, as the space agency prepares to send Perseverance, its next-gen rover, to the Red Planet.

© Provided by CBS News A full size model of the Perseverance rover on display at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on July 28, 2020.

The launch window is approximately two hours, with a launch opportunity every five minutes.

That the one-ton rover will end up on Mars on the afternoon of February 18 is almost certain (presuming it is able to launch before the middle of August, when the planet moves too far away from Earth). The spacecraft - carrying a rover named Perseverance, an experimental helicopter called Ingenuity, a multitude of scientific experiments and equipment to retrieve samples of martian rocks and soil - is set for liftoff from Cape Canaveral at 7:50 a.m. EDT. Perseverance carries instruments to generate onsite oxygen from the Martian atmosphere, an unmanned autonomous helicopter for long-range exploration and a sample collector for a future 2031 retrieval mission with European support. Just today it was announced that Airbus will build the spacecraft responsible for delivering this precious cargo to Earth, in a mission that's expected to launch in 2026.

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