Published: 2020-07-29 10:03:00
Updated: 2020-07-30 08:47:05
Posted July 29, 2020 10:03 a.m. EDT
Updated July 30, 2020 8:47 a.m. EDT
The Perseverance rover launched Thursday at 7:50 a.m. ET from Cape Canaveral, Florida.
After liftoff, "Persy" will begin a 309-million-mile trip to Mars with landing set for February, 18, 2021.
The Perseverance rover is based on the same 9-foot-long, 9.5-foot-wide and more than 7-foot-tall design as the Curiosity rover, which has been exploring Mars' Gale Crater since August 2012.
Think of Perseverance as Curiosity 2.0. Perseverance adds another 300+ pounds of upgraded and additional instruments.
Curiosity had 17 cameras topping out at two megapixels while Persy is equipped with 23 cameras, including a 20-megapixel color camera. Also on board are a pair of microphones to record the sounds of Mars during landing and later on the surface.
The rover will also deliver Ingenuity, a technology experiment and the first aircraft to attempt controlled flight on another planet, attached to the belly of NASA's Perseverance rover. Perseverance will deploy Ingenuity onto the surface of Mars, and Ingenuity is expected to attempt its first flight test in spring 2021.
While the physics work the same, flying on Mars is challenging. Generating lift in the thin atmosphere, about 1% that of Earth's, required engineers to come up with a unique design.
A pair of 4-feet-wide counter rotating blades spin at about 2,400 RPM to lift the 4-pound drone. Onboard computers, navigation sensors and two cameras (one color and one black-and-white) communicate back to the rover wirelessly.
The solar-powered drone will be used for short hops, up to 90 seconds at a time, about 10-15 feet off the ground, to scout ahead for possible science targets for its big sister rover, recharging between flights.