Filipinos top signup for NASA's 'Send Your name to Mars'

The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying the Mars Perseverance rover sits on the pad at Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Fla. Wednesday

"It's really kind of a key of a whole bunch of new research that we're doing that is focused on the there life out there?" the space agency's science division chief Thomas Zurbuchen said on a NASA live stream after the launch.

"There's a reason we call the robot Perseverance". Navigation data indicate the spacecraft is perfectly on course to Mars.

The country has already made two successful rover missions to the moon and plans to build a space station by 2022.

China is sending both a rover and an orbiter.

The journey to Mars will take seven months.

Launch controllers wore masks and sat spaced apart at the Cape Canaveral control center because of the coronavirus outbreak, which kept hundreds of scientists and other team members away from Perseverance's liftoff.

NASA confirmed the separation of the rover from the rocket about one hour following the launch. Examining those samples on Earth will provide far more information about them than even the most sophisticated rover could provide, said NASA.

NASA's Mars 2020 mission and the Perseverance rover are on their way to Mars. It is expected to land on the planet on February 18, 2021. It is carrying 25 cameras and a pair of microphones that will enable Earthlings to vicariously tag along.

The latest Mars mission, the Perseverance Rover, was launched yesterday, July 30, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in the U.S., with 10.9 million names aboard.

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Perseverance is due to land at the base of a 250-metre-deep crater called Jezero, a former lake from 3.5 billion years ago that scientists suspect could bear evidence of potential past microbial life on Mars.

In addition to Mastcam-Z, the rover will also carry a four-pound helicopter named Ingenuity equipped with a cell phone camera that will use wireless communication with the rover and collect images from above. That includes equipment for extracting oxygen from Mars' thin carbon-dioxide atmosphere.

"We had a good launch this morning, we're right on course for Mars and signal from @NASAPersevere is strong". Then another spacecraft will capture the orbiting samples and bring them home.

Once on the surface, Nasa will deploy the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter - a 1.8 kilogramme aircraft that will attempt to fly in an atmosphere that is only one percent the density of Earth's. Meenakshi Wadhwa, director of the School of Earth and Space Exploration, explained during a webinar before the launch that samples have never before been collected from the planet.

What's more, the rover carries the words "Explore as one" on a plate in Morse code, as well as the names of about 10.9 million people on three silicon chips "who signed up to ride along on Perseverance's journey to Mars". The rover, which is roughly the size of a auto, is contained within the top part of the Atlas V rocket together with its landing gear.

"I've wanted to know if there was life elsewhere in the universe since I was 9 years old".

The rover is also meant to help bring Martian rock samples back to Earth, collecting materials in cigar-sized capsules and leaving them in various spots on the surface for retrieval by a future "fetch" rover.

Two other NASA landers are also operating on Mars: 2018's InSight and 2012's Curiosity rover.

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