Phil Keating reports from the scene as the Perseverance rover blasts into space for a 7-month mission.
A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket carrying the Mars 2020 mission with the Perseverance rover lifts off from Space Launch Complex-41 at 7:50 a.m. EDT on July 30, 2020.
Shortly after the successful launch of the Mars 2020 mission, NASA confirmed that its spacecraft encountered a couple of technical issues after it left Earth.
"Right now, the Mars 2020 mission is completing a full health assessment on the spacecraft and is working to return the spacecraft to a nominal configuration for its journey to Mars", added Nasa.
"When I saw the country shutting down, I thought for sure there'd be no way we could launch this mission this year", said Omar Baez, NASA senior launch director at NASA's Kennedy Space Center. United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket launch scheduled for tomorrow will transport the rover to Mars.
According to NASA, the Perseverance Rover "can collect core samples of the most promising rocks and soils and set them aside in a "cache" on the surface of Mars".
While most of Perseverance's seven instruments are geared toward learning more about the planet's geology and astrobiology, the MOXIE (Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment) instrument's job is focused on missions yet to come.
The rover will land in a 28-mile wide crater called the Jezero Crater north of the Martian equator, NASA said. The mission's duration on the Red Planet's surface is at least one Martian year or about 687 days. And the rover isn't travelling alone-Perseverance is carrying a four-pound helicopter attached to its belly. Dubbed Ingenuity, the helicopter will be the first aircraft to attempt powered flight on another planet. The INL-developed Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator (MMRTG) will provide the rover with heat and power, providing electricity for the rover's basic operations and also keeping its tools and systems at optimal temperatures.
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 United Arab Emirates also recently launched its Amal orbiter to the Red Planet.
So far, the USA has been the only country to successfully put a spacecraft on Mars, doing it eight times. Two NASA landers are operating there, InSight and Curiosity.
The state from which the rover was launched, Florida, is now one of the hot spots in the United States for the coronavirus pandemic.
From his base at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, Matt Wallace, the mission's deputy project manager, said in an online update that the spacecraft is healthy, and well and truly on its way to Mars.
UK Minister for Science, Research and Innovation Amanda Solloway said: "UK scientists and researchers continue to play an indispensable role in the most impressive global space missions, helping to further our understanding of our extraordinary Solar System".