NASA’s Mars Rover ‘Perseverance’ And Its Atlas V Rocket Set To Launch Today

Florida: NASA is counting down to the launch of its newest Mars rover. The car-sized robot, named Perseverance, is set to lift off toward the Red Planet Thursday (July 30) during a two-hour window that opens at 7:50 a.m.

Perseverance will launch atop a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 here at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The rover will land on the floor of Mars’ Jezero Crater on Feb.18, 2021.

Launch coverage will begin Thursday at 7 a.m. EDT (1100 GMT), with the launch window remaining open until about 9:50 a.m. EDT (1350 GMT). There will be multiple opportunities to launch within that time frame, and you can watch the launch live here on Space.com as well as via NASA. ULA will also offer a live webcast of the launch, beginning about 20 minutes before liftoff.

The weather forecast looks good for tomorrow’s planned liftoff, with an 80% chance of favorable conditions. Sunny skies are expected, with only minor concerns for cloud cover. The mighty Atlas V rocket will launch in its 541 configuration. Dubbed the “Dominator” by ULA CEO Tory Bruno, this version of the Atlas V is the second-most powerful on the market. Accompanying the RD-180 main engine will be four strap-on solid rocket motors along with a Centaur upper stage. Together, the first stage and solid rocket motors will produce 2.3 million lbs. of thrust.

Perseverance’s journey to Mars will take approximately 6.5 months and will culminate in an intense landing sequence that NASA officials have dubbed “7 minutes of terror.” Perseverance will have to deal with that terror by itself: Once the command to begin the landing sequence is initiated, the rover is on its own.

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