UPDATED: NASA on the way back to Mars

NASA is heading back to the Red Planet with a new rover.

The robotic explorer is on a mission to search the planet for evidence of ancient life.

Launched into orbit this morning atop an Atlas 5 rocket, the car-size vehicle will study the geology and climate of Mars, hopefully laying the groundwork for eventual human exploration.

The rover's is named Perseverance, selected from thousands of public suggestions that perfectly captures the can-do spirit of scientists during coronavirus, the largest and heaviest object NASA has ever sent to Mars. It’ll take a little over six months to get there, the landing on the red planet planned for February 18, 2021, the landing site specifically planned to add to our understanding of life on Mars.

All Cheng, the lead for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California’s Mars 2020 Entry and Descent team, says they’ll bring her down in a crater 28 miles wide. “Jezero Crater itself was pretty clearly a lake many millions of years ago, with a river flowing into it, and just like any river delta here on earth you’d be hard pressed to not find some sign of life trapped in it,” he says. Where there’s liquid moisture, there’s the possibility of life.

Also aboard is the Ingenuity helicopter, a technological marvel designed to get lift in the thin atmosphere of Mars. It’s man’s first attempt at a helicopter on another planet. The two craft will begin laying the foundation for human travel to Mars.

Perseverance has 11 million names stenciled on it. NASA allowed people to submit their name for inclusion, and there were a number of people interested in being a part of history.

You can watch history happen on NASA TV.

photo: getty images

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