NASA Perseverance Mars rover healthy, exits 'safe mode'

NASA Perseverance Mars rover healthy, exits 'safe mode'

"With safe mode exit, the team is getting down to the business of interplanetary cruise", Mars 2020 Deputy Project Manager Matt Wallace of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in a statement on Friday.

Technical issues aside, NASA hopes the Mars rover will be able to find signs of past microscopic life on the planet, as well as study its geology in preparation for future robotic - and perhaps even human - expeditions.

"The spacecraft is in good health and on its way to Mars", NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine wrote on Twitter.

Mars 2020 sent its first signal to ground controllers via NASA's Deep Space Network at 915 am EDT (615 am PDT). The issue was quickly resolved.

"It's really kind of a key of a whole bunch of new research that we're doing that is focused on the question ... is there life out there?" the space agency's science division chief Thomas Zurbuchen said on a NASA live stream after the launch. "Everything's fine, and we're on our way to Mars". The rover is officially on its way to Jezero Crater on Mars.

Previous trips to Mars have discovered it was far warmer and wetter three billion years ago than it is today, creating the conditions necessary for carbon-based life.

Aboard the rover are the Sample Caching System and the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter, a technology demonstrator that will perform up to five controlled flights.

The thin Martian atmosphere - 99 per cent less dense than Earth's - poses a challenge to Ingenuity, which was created to be light, with rotor blades that are larger and spin more quickly than what would be needed for a helicopter of its mass on Earth. Landing is a tense process, but if all goes well, Perseverance will join Curiosity as NASA's only functioning rovers on Mars. Charged with sending the first woman and next man to the Moon by 2024, NASA will establish a sustained human presence on and around the Moon by 2028 through NASA's Artemis program. "As our instruments investigate rocks along an ancient lake bottom and select samples to return to Earth, we may very well be reaching back in time to get the information scientists to need to say that life has existed elsewhere in the universe".

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