By Wired Magazine
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Florida – On Thursday morning, NASA launched its new Mars rover, Perseverance, on a six-month journey to the Red Planet.
The car-sized rover was boosted into space atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket that departed from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
It’s the third and final Mars mission to depart Earth this summer; earlier in July, China and the United Arab Emirates also launched their first Martian explorers.
Perseverance is essentially an alien-hunting self-driving car. Its primary mission is to find possible signs of ancient life hidden in the Martian soil and bottle them up so they can be returned to Earth by another robotic mission later this decade.
It’s NASA’s fifth Mars rover, but it will also represent a number of firsts for the agency.
Perseverance will host the first microphone on Mars to capture the sounds of the rover’s descent to the surface; it will be the first rover to take pictures with a zoomable camera; it carries a super lightweight helicopter destined to become the first extraterrestrial aircraft; it’s the first rover powered by American plutonium; it’s carrying the first space suit samples for tests on another planet; and it will be the first rover to collect return samples of Mars dirt.