Perseverance is on her way to Mars, launched on a United Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. It will take about 7 months for Perseverance to reach Jezero Crater on Mars.
Several projects are planned for its arrival, with goals to search for extraterrestrial signs of life, explore the Red Planet’s geology, bring back the sounds of the planet, use two small slices of Martian meteorites being brought back to the planet as part of an experiment, test suit materials for future travel of our astronauts, launch Ingenuity – Mars Helicopter – to test powered flight on another world, and drill for Martian rock samples and then blast them into orbit by a rocket. A new Airbus satellite will then grab the packaged samples and send them back to Earth. This part of the mission will serve to determine whether life has ever existed on the Red Planet.
In order to achieve all of this, Perseverance will need a strong power source. So, NASA equipped the rover with a plutonium nuclear power source – called Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator (MMRTG) – capable of providing power for 14 years. Nuclear power sources of other varieties have also traveled to deep space on missions like the Curiosity Rover, launched in 2011, the 40-year old twin Voyager probes and the Cassini spacecraft that dived into and through Saturn’s rings.