Launch recap: Watch NASA’s Perseverance rover begin journey to Mars

Liftoff happened on time at 7:50 a.m. Thursday

NASA and United Launch Alliance successfully launched a rover and helicopter to Mars from Florida’s coast Thursday morning.

This mission has been more than seven years in the making and was designed to search for signs of life on Mars and collect samples to return to Earth.

The ULA Atlas V liftoff happened right on time at 7:50 a.m. Thursday from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, the rocket sending the rover named Perseverance and the chopper nicknamed Ingenuity on their journey to the red planet.

The weather was beautiful for the launch, according to the U.S. Space Force 45th Weather Squadron, with a 90% chance of favorable launch conditions. A few clouds could be seen on the Space Coast around sunrise.

Here’s (almost) everything you need to know about NASA’s Mars 2020 mission.

See highlights from the countdown below and re-watch the liftoff at the top of this story.

9:20 a.m.

NASA and the spacecraft carrying its Mars rover and helicopter are successfully communicating after signal acquisition. Perseverance is officially headed to Mars!

8:50 a.m. Spacecraft officially en route to Mars

The spacecraft carrying the rover has separated from the Atlas V Centaur stage and is on it’s way to the red planet. NASA is now waiting for the signal from the spacecraft to confirm all is well.

The rover will land on Mars in February.

8:10 a.m. Final Mars launch of the year

Perseverance marked the third mission that launched to the red planet this year. Every two years Earth and Mars are on the same side of the sun, requiring less power to launch to the red planet.

UAE and China launched their independent missions earlier in July. Read more about those missions here.

The Mars launch window opens in mid-July for about 30 days.

7:50 a.m. ‘A beautiful liftoff'

Atlas V launched at 7:50 a.m. sending NASA’s Mars rover and helicopter on its seven-month journey to Mars.

It was “a beautiful liftoff,” remarked one of the NASA launch commentators.

However, the most important stages are still coming up. About an hour after liftoff the spacecraft will separate from Atlas V and NASA will need to acquire the signal from the spacecraft. That happens around 8:47 a.m.

Then the spacecraft will begin it’s trip to Mars, arriving in February.

7:45 a.m. Go for launch

After a quick poll, Launch Director Bill Cullen says “you have permission to launch.”

The launch is on track for an on time liftoff at 7:50 a.m.

7:30 ‘A little shake up'

During NASA’s livestream from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where the Perseverance rover was built, engineer MiMi Aung says they just experienced an earthquake.

JPL controls the rover and spacecraft carrying it to Mars.

“Good thing we’re not launching from Vandenberg today,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine quipped.

A 4.5 magnitude earthquake happened near San Fernando, California. The quake is not expected to delay the liftoff from Florida.

7:20 a.m. It’s a beautiful day to go to Mars

Launch viewers are headed out to the Space Coast to watch the Atlas V rocket launch NASA’s Mars rover.

“Things are looking great for launch, we are go,” 45th Space Wing Launch Weather Officer Jessica Williams said, confirming all launch commitment criteria are in good standing.

Weather has improved to 90% favorable.

7 a.m. Rocket fueling underway

The countdown clock is ticking down to 7:50 a.m. and ULA is almost finished fueling the Atlas V rocket at Cape Canaveral.

Weather remains positive with an 80% chance of favorable conditions for the two hour launch window from 7:50 to 9:50 a.m.

5:30 p.m. Take a look at Perseverance and all its gadgets

Click on the graphic below to see a rundown of all the rover’s science instruments from cameras to weather monitoring tools and MOXIE, which is designed to produce oxygen from the Martian air.

3 p.m. Live views of the launch pad

A camera at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station is showing live views of Atlas standing tall on the launch pad ready for Thursday’s morning liftoff.

July 29, 12 p.m.

NASA Administrator makes final remarks before liftoff.

11 a.m. Best viewing options

ULA shared this visibility map of the launch track for the Atlas V. People from all over Florida and Southern Georgia should be able to see the rocket at varies times in the flight path.

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