NASA, the US space agency, sent the Perseverance rover towards Mars on Thursday morning, with the main purpose of looking for traces of past microbial life. The takeoff took place at 8.50 am (according to Brasília time), at Cape Canaveral, located in Florida (USA). The vehicle is expected to reach the Martian surface in February 2021.
It will land at the base of a 250-meter-deep crater called Jezero where, 3.5 billion years ago, there was a large lake. The researchers believe that this location can provide important information about the existence or not of life on the Red Planet.
Preseverance was launched on top of an Atlas 5 rocket from the United Launch Alliance joint venture of the Boeing-Lockheed company. Costing $ 2.4 billion, this is NASA’s ninth mission to the Martian surface. Check out images of the takeoff below:
Missions and new challenges
The space vehicle is programmed to bring samples of Martian rocks back to Earth, collecting materials in small capsules and leaving them scattered on the surface to be recovered by a future space vehicle.
“This is different from any robot we have ever sent to Mars because it has the goal of astrobiology,” NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine told Reuters. “We are trying to find evidence of ancient life in another world.”
To facilitate exploration, the agency also sent an autonomous helicopter on the mission. Called Ingenuity, the vehicle weighs 1.8 kg and will test a powered flight on the planet for the first time.
According to Brazilian scientist Ivair Gontijo, from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, this mission will pave the way for humans. To that end, Perseverance will collect samples of suits sent to the planet previously. With that, researchers will have enough information to develop a model with more precision.
The robot will also carry out an experiment to convert elements of the atmosphere, rich in carbon dioxide, into breathable oxygen for future crew members or to propel rockets launched from the surface of the planet itself. “There are many things that we need to be able to develop and discover,” said Bridenstine, “so that when we get to Mars, we can really survive for long periods of time.”