After many months of work, NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover has finally launched for the Red Planet. The launch took place from the Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral on July 30 aboard the ULA’s Atlas V rocket. NASA has detailed this success, explaining that Perseverance was put into parking orbit…and soon after the rover put itself into safe mode, potentially due to cold temperatures.
The launch involved carrying the rover into parking orbit around Earth on the Centaur upper stage. From there, a second engine firing took place, causing the spacecraft to separate from the upper stage as it was supposed to. By 9:15 AM ET, NASA received its first Perseverance signal on its Deep Space Network.
Around two hours later, however, NASA received additional data that revealed the rover had put itself into safe mode, something that shuts down everything but the rover’s essential systems. The rover would have triggered this mode if it detected something that made it believe that it was in less than ideal conditions — potentially extra cold temperatures it experienced while traveling through the Earth’s shadow.
The team behind the mission is currently investigating the rover and its health; it will, assuming nothing is wrong, take steps to get Perseverance back into its regular configuration for the multi-month trip to Mars. The machine will launch on the Red Planet on February 18, 2021.
Once on Mars, Perseverance and its various instruments will be dedicated to investigating the environment for evidence of past life on the planet. As well, Perseverance is carrying an unprecedented machine — a small helicopter that will be the first aerial machine operated in the atmosphere of another planet.