A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket with NASA's Mars 2020 mission with the Perseverance rover rolls from the Vertical Integration Facility (VIF) to the launch pad at Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.
And for future missions to the Red Planet, Filipinos are leading the roster of name submissions.
In the launch of the Perseverance mission, the Philippines ranked 23rd with 69,995 submitted names.
Previous rovers, including Curiosity, have shown that the Red Planet was "habitable", i.e. that the conditions thought to be conducive to the appearance of life (carbon, water, favorable climate) were present about 3.5 billion years ago.
The Perseverance mission has a lander and a rover but will also include a helicopter (Ingenuity) for the first time.
The $2.7 billion rover, built and managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena California, incorporates many science experiments in its multi-year mission, featuring 10 different instruments.
Japan has its own Martian moon mission planned in 2024 that will collect samples of Phobos - Mars' largest moon. "And when we reached that point it was like wow, this feels like one of those Wright Brothers moments in aviation history", said Carlos Malpica, an aerospace engineer at Ames Research Centre. Following a seven-month journey, it will land at Jezero Crater on February 18, 2021, and will gather rock and soil samples for a future return to Earth. Turkey led the list with 2,528,844 signups out of almost 11 million. After a series of delays forced NASA to extend its launch window, Perseverance has been given the green light to blast off. The sample will then be sent back to Earth and this will be part of a future mission, in a few years.
According to NASA, the proof of past life on Mars will most likely not be confirmed, if it exists, until these samples are analyzed over the next decade. The launch will utilize an Atlas V rocket in the 541 configuration, which utilizes a 5 meter payload fairing, will be powered by 4 solid rocket motors, and will complete its initial powered launch push with a single Centaur engine.
First things first, though: Good flying weather is forecast for United Launch Alliance's Atlas V rocket.
Stay posted to Spaceflight Insider for further coverage of the mission, from liftoff to landing and beyond.