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NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover: How to watch the mission launch live – CNET

This illustration shows the Perseverance rover exploring Mars.

NASA/JPL-Caltech This story is part of Welcome to Mars, our series exploring the red planet.

The big day is almost here. NASA’s Perseverance rover is all packed away and ready to launch to Mars on Thursday, July 30. 

NASA will livestream the event as the car-sized rover takes off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket. Pre-launch coverage starts at 4 a.m. PT and the two-hour window opens at 4:50 a.m.

The launch will depend on weather and technical factors. It was previously delayed from earlier in the month due to technical issues.

It has been almost nine years since NASA sent off its previous rover, Curiosity, to Mars. Perseverance is the most advanced robot NASA has sent to the surface of Mars. Once it sets down in the Jezero Crater — an area with a history of water — the rover will kick off a mission to seek out signs of ancient microbial life.  

The rover isn’t going alone. It also carries an experimental helicopter named Ingenuity under its belly.

NASA’s mission is one of several launching to Mars within a limited window of opportunity this year when the red planet is in a favorable position relative to Earth. Missing that window means waiting until 2022 for the next chance. Perseverance could potentially launch as late as mid-August if necessary.

The United Arab Emirates successfully sent off its Hope probe on July 19 and China is set to launch its own orbiter and rover sometime this month. All three missions are scheduled to reach Mars in February 2021.