NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said at a post-launch press conference that finding life on Mars “would be humanity’s greatest discovery”
Earth tremors, communication problems and much emotion that Thursday marked the launch of the rocket that headed to Mars to the rover Perseverance, which will search hints of past and present life on a planet to which the United States wants to send humans starting in 2030.
The NASA administrator, Jim Bridenstine, he assured in a press conference after the launch that to find life on mars “It would be the greatest discovery of humanity” and “would transform the way in which we develop space exploration.”
“It would be the greatest discovery in history, but I think it would also allow us to do more than we have ever done because there would be much more interest in going further,” said Bridenstine.
The Atlas V rocket, to which the Perseverance was attached, took off this Thursday at 07:50 local time from the Kennedy Space Center of Cape Canaveral, Florida, and thus began NASA’s Mars 2020 mission, at a cost of about $ 2.7 billion.
If all goes as planned, Perseverance, a nuclear powered vehicle equipped with a new generation of robotic space devices, will hit the Jezero crater from Mars on February 18.
The vehicle, named after a Virginia boy, will travel a million miles (1.609 million km) to land on the Martian surface to complete a mission that will last at least a year on Mars, or whatever same 687 earthly days.
An earthquake dismisses the rover
Minutes before takeoff, a small tremor of intensity three was noticed at the Pasadena, California control center that fired Perseverance in his last moments on Earth, but that ultimately had no incidence.
NASA experts reiterated the “perfection of takeoff” during the press conference after launch that was held under unbeatable conditions, and although there are some communication problems to receive the data from the spacecraft, they assured that “it is something usual” in the deep space.
“We have enough time to recover the signal and start interacting with the ship to make the necessary path corrections over the next few days,” explained the deputy project manager, Matt Wallace.
The vehicle, which began construction almost a decade ago, weighs more than a ton and has various devices that will enable it to meet the objectives of the 2020 Mars Rover mission.
Aside from looking for microscopic life, it will transform carbon dioxide into oxygen for future explorations with humans and fly the first aircraft in the fine atmosphere of Mars.
Perservarance has a robotic arm, the Ingenuity helicopter, twenty-five cameras and the first microphone that will allow the sounds of Mars to be relayed, although one of the milestones will be the collection of samples from the Martian soil that will be sent to Earth.
The shipment of what will be the first samples of Mars is part of a second mission that will begin in 2026 with the collaboration of the European Space Agency (THAT) and that it will require up to three launches for scientists to directly analyze otherworldly sediments.
Some of the predecessor rovers that U.S sent to Mars they were Sojourner, Spirit, Opportunity and Curiosity, the latter arrived on the planet in 2012 and was the one that showed that at some point there was water on the Martian surface.
Like its predecessor, the vehicle is powered by nuclear energy, specifically plutonium, and has a lifespan of up to seventeen years in total.
To space during the pandemic
The mission, according to Jim Bridenstine, “It has been a great challenge given the circumstances of the pandemic,” which has already claimed the lives of more than 150,000 people in the United States.
The long shadow of the coronavirus was present throughout the launch in which the workers present in the facilities of the different control centers distributed in different parts of the country were limited to the maximum and that they celebrated the successful take-off with masks, applause and remote hand clashes .
Nor were they seen the hundreds of space enthusiasts who normally occupy the Kennedy Space Center facilities to see the mission take off live since NASA decided to close it to the public.
The US aerospace agency also wanted to pay tribute to the millions of people affected by the pandemic and the country’s toilets, so it installed a plaque on the side of the vehicle with the globe and the staff of Asclepius, the ancient symbol of the Greeks linked to the healing of the sick.
Objective: conquer Mars
Since the arrival of the President, Donald Trump, The United States has placed special emphasis on space exploration, and the launch of this mission marks the beginning of what will be the conquest of Mars with the arrival of the first human beings in the coming decades.
The mission has a total cost of $ 2.7 billion, a small part of NASA’s total budget that is more than $ 22 billion and with which it competes with other countries that recently started missions to the planet.
This is the third mission to be sent to Mars this month, after the orbital device took off from Arab Emirates last July 19 and the Tianwen 1 ship by China which has space vehicles.
With information from .