Safely secured to the top of a mighty United Lunch Alliance Atlas V 541 rocket and Centaur upper stage, NASA’s car-sized Perseverance rover – and accompanying Ingenuity helicopter – left Earth on Thursday morning (July 30) in spectacular fashion.
, A key mission requirement for this rover is that it must help prepare NASA for its Mars sample-return mission (MSR) campaign, which is needed before any crewed mission takes place. NASA LSP senior launch director, Omar Baez, stated that “I never would have thought that a launch director would be working from home and I’ve done that for the last five months.” He went on further to state that “It’s humbling to see how our whole team from the range, to our partners at JPL, to our partners at ULA, to our folks at headquarters – how we all had to adjust to work in this environment, to work electronically.” Although challenging, the Mars 2020 mission persevered to overcome the obstacles and meet the targeted launch date.  Prior to the selection of Jezero, eight proposed landing sites for the mission were under consideration by September 2015; Columbia Hills in Gusev crater, Eberswalde crater, Holden crater, Jezero crater, Mawrth Vallis, Northeastern Syrtis Major Planum, Nili Fossae, and Southwestern Melas Chasma. ULA has successfully launched more than 135 missions to orbit that provide Earth observation capabilities, enable global communications, unlock the mysteries of our solar system, and support life-saving technology.  The generator has a mass of 45 kilograms (99 lb) and contains 4.8 kilograms (11 lb) of plutonium dioxide as the source of steady supply of heat that is converted to electricity. The Perseverance rover and Ingenuity helicopter are expected to continue on the journey to the Red Planet and attempt entry, descent, and landing on February 18, 2020. The Atlas V 541 provided 2 million lbs of thrust rocketing the spacecraft east away from Florida over the Atlantic Ocean.  It will cache sample containers along its route for retrieval by a potential future Mars sample-return mission. Mars 2020 was the third of three space missions sent toward Mars during the July 2020 Mars launch window, with missions also launched by the national space agencies of the United Arab Emirates (Hope orbiter) and China (Tianwen-1, with an orbiter, lander, and rover). One of the most powerful rockets in the Atlas V fleet, the 541 configuration, with four solid rocket boosters, provides optimum performance to precisely deliver a range of mission types. ULA and its heritage rockets have launched every U.S. led mission to Mars, beginning in the 1960s. It will seek signs of past life, set aside a returnable cache with the most compelling rock core and soil samples, and demonstrate technology needed for the future human and robotic exploration of Mars.
 A "fetch rover" would retrieve the sample caches and deliver them to a Mars ascent vehicle (MAV). This reduces overall technical risk for the mission, while saving funds and time on development.  The mission will also attempt to identify subsurface water, improve landing techniques, and characterize weather, dust, and other potential environmental conditions that could affect future astronauts living and working on Mars. It was launched on 30 July 2020 at 11:50 UTC, and will touch down in Jezero crater on Mars on 18 February 2021.  The Science Definition Team proposed that the rover collect and package as many as 31 samples of rock cores and surface soil for a later mission to bring back for definitive analysis on Earth.
A key mission requirement is that it must help prepare NASA for its long-term Mars sample-return mission and crewed mission efforts. Onboard is MOXIE, or the Mars Oxygen ISRU Experiment, designed to test technology that can convert carbon dioxide in the Martian atmosphere into oxygen – an important precursor experiment to one day sending humans to Mars.
It would be collecting samples for eventual return to Earth in search of finding evidence of ancient microbial life. NASA’s Launch Services Program (LSP) at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida selected United Launch Alliance’s (ULA’s) proven Atlas V vehicle for this mission and is responsible for management and oversight of the Atlas V launch services. With more than a century of combined heritage, ULA is the world’s most experienced and reliable launch service provider. , The Perseverance rover was designed with help from Curiosity's engineering team, and both are similar.
 In September 2013, NASA launched an Announcement of Opportunity for researchers to propose and develop the instruments needed, including the Sample Caching System.  In addition, NASA announced in June 2019 that a student naming contest for the rover would be held in the fall of 2019, with voting on nine finalist names held in January 2020. The rover is based on the design of Curiosity. , Ingenuity is a robotic helicopter that will test the technology to scout interesting targets for study on Mars, and help plan the best driving route for Perseverance.  While there are differences in scientific instruments and the engineering required to support them, the entire landing system (including the sky crane and heat shield) and rover chassis can essentially be recreated without any additional engineering or research.
After approximately ninety seconds of flight, the solid rocket motors burned out, separating away from the booster followed quickly by stage separation.
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