KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. – NASA’s $2 billion upcoming mission to Mars is the space agency’s most complex ever to the red planet.
NASA built its Mars 2020 rover in California and it arrived in February at Kennedy Space Center ahead of a summer launch.
A seventh-grader won the contest to name the rover, “Perseverance.”
NASA rovers first reached the surface of Mars in the 90s, but Perseverance is expected to be the first to bring home samples. Last month, NASA scientists installed the rover’s sample collection tubes.
"One day when we send humans to Mars, we're gonna know where to go to get the absolute best science and data we can get," NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said.
The exploration also includes a search for ancient signs of life.
Perseverance has its own helicopter which the rover will deploy in attempt to become the first vehicle to fly on another planet.
KSC Vehicle Systems Engineer Derrick Bailey called the mission, “absolutely amazing work that just doesn’t seem real that it could even happen.”
After the sample collection, a rocket would launch the samples off of Mars, put them into the red planet’s orbit, and another spacecraft would catch the samples and fly them 100 million miles to Earth, arriving in 2031.
Perseverance’s launch leaving our planet is expected in one month. The rover would land on Mars in February.
"We're very excited about Mars Perseverance and it's a great time to be at NASA and I hope it's a great time for everybody to watch the stunning things that NASA is capable of doing," Bridenstine said.
NASA is targeting liftoff no earlier than July 20.
Teams have a few weeks where the Earth and Mars are on the same side of the sun which they need to make an interplanetary journey possible.