NASA‘s goal to send a spacecraft to Mars began this morning as the United Launch Alliance Atlas V 541 rocket lifted off carrying the Mars 2020 spacecraft for NASA from Cape Canaveral, Florida — the official liftoff time was 7:50:00.233 a.m. EDT (1150:00.233 UTC).
The seven-hour countdown started at 12:30 a.m., EDT, under the guidance of ULA Launch Conductor Scott Barney. The rocket was powered up and underwent the standard, day-of-launch testing, while crews finished configuring the launch pad. The “go” for fueling order was given at 5:18 a.m.
Tanking operations were successfully performed as 66,000 gallons of liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen filled the rocket’s tanks. The permission to launch was given at 7:45 a.m. EDT by ULA Launch Director Bill Cullen.
Following the first stage of flight, the Centaur upper stage performed an initial burn that achieved a parking orbit. A second burn then injected the Perseverance rover on a trajectory to the red planet.
Just over an hour into its flight, it was announced that Perseverance is officially on its way to Mars. A key milestone — spacecraft separation — has taken place. Then the official word was received: “And we have successful separation of Mars 2020 with the Perseverance rover.”
NASA made the following announcement… “Today’s final critical milestone — acquisition of signal — has been achieved. In essence, Perseverance has phoned home to let us know it’s officially on the way to Mars.”
“This signifies that JPL’s (NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory) deep space network has locked on to the spacecraft, which is on its journey to Mars,” said NASA Launch Manager Omar Baez, from the agency’s Launch Services Program. “Everything appears to be going nominally. Today’s count went beautifully.”