On Tuesday we wrote that Mars tugs at the human imagination like no other planet. “It’s there,” said astronaut Buzz Aldrin, “waiting to be reached.” Today, NASA launched the Perseverance rover that will, if all goes as planned, touch down at the Jezero Crater landing site in February 2021 as a robotic explorer. Jezero, a 45-kilometre-wide crater is home to the remains of an ancient river delta. NASA researchers have detected deposits of hydrated silica from previous flybys –a mineral that’s especially good at preserving microfossils and other signs of past life.
The NASA image above shows the moment after liftoff of the Perseverance rover from Cape Canaveral, Florida. The spacecraft begins the first part of its journey to Mars atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V launch vehicle. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech