NASA's Perseverance rover getting closer to Mars, potentially finding evidence of life

NASA administrator on Perseverance Rover’s mission to Mars, search for signs of ancient life

The rover launched into space atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida; insight from NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.

NASA's Perseverance rover has less than 100 days until it gets to Mars and looks for fossilized evidence of extraterrestrial life, the space agency announced. 

In a statement made on Tuesday, NASA said the rover has 166 million miles left to go until it touches down on Mars' Jezero Crater on Feb. 18, 2021, at 3:43 p.m. EST. If the landing is successful, NASA's JPL will receive confirmation about 11.5 minutes later.

"While we call the six-and-a-half-month trip from Earth to Mars 'cruise,' I assure you there is not much croquet going on at the lido deck," said project manager John McNamee in the statement. "Between checking out the spacecraft, and planning and simulating our landing and surface operations, the entire team is on the clock, working toward our exploration of Jezero Crater."

This illustration of the Mars 2020 spacecraft in interplanetary space was generated using imagery from NASA’s Eyes on the Solar System. The image is from the mission’s midway point between Earth and Mars. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

HOW IS THE MARS PERSEVERANCE ROVER GETTING TO THE RED PLANET?

There were a number of achievements made on the rover this week, including confirming the system used to lower it on Mars is in "good working order" (Nov. 9); keeping up-to-date on the PIXL and SHERLOC instruments (Nov. 10); and analyzing the Lander Vision System, performed Wednesday.

The next milestone for the mission will start on Nov. 16, when a five-day simulation of surface operations, including driving and collecting samples, is performed.

After that, another update will come on Dec. 18, when "the team plans to perform a trajectory correction maneuver, using the cruise stage's eight thrusters to refine the spacecraft's path toward Mars," NASA added.

NASA has posted a real-time look to see where the rover is at any time.

NASA'S PERSEVERANCE ROVER CARRYING 'SPECIAL' HIDDEN MESSAGE TO MARS

The $2.1 billion rover will also come with the first helicopter, known as Ingenuity, that will let researchers understand the viability and potential of heavier-than-air vehicles on the Red Planet. In August, NASA powered up the six lithium-ion batteries on Ingenuity.

Once Perseverance lands at the Jezero Crater, it will join the still functioning Curiosity rover and the now-deceased Opportunity rover on the Red Planet. 

The mission’s duration on the Red Planet’s surface is at least one Martian year or about 687 days. While there, it will perform a number of tasks, including looking for fossilized evidence of extraterrestrial life.

NASA’s long-term goal is to send a manned mission to Mars in the 2030s.

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Fox News' James Rogers contributed to this story.

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