A 4.2-magnitude earthquake didn’t stop the next NASA Mars rover from lifting off on Thursday morning. The car-sized Perseverance craft and its collection of cameras, microphones, drills, and lasers launched into space on an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral, Fla. It should arrive on Mars in February 2021 at the end of a 300-million-mile journey.
What will Perseverance do? The rover will drill down into the surface of the red planet to collect geological specimens. If all goes well, researchers plan to have the craft return to Earth in 2031 so they can analyze the samples for signs of ancient life. The mission also will test technology for potential manned missions, including a helicopter that will take the first powered flight on another planet if it succeeds. China and the United Arab Emirates also launched spacecraft to Mars last week.
Dig deeper: Watch NASA’s video stream of the launch.
This story originally appeared in WORLD. © 2020, reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.