Nasa launch LIVE: Mars alien-hunting Perseverance robot launched TODAY – latest updates

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NASA is sending a rover to Mars today in a bold bid to hunt down signs of alien life on the planet’s surface.

Should today’s launch go to plan, Perseverance, which is part of a Nasa mission dubbed Mars 2020, will touch down on the Red Planet next year.

Its scheduled for launch at 11.50am.

Follow our live blog below for all the latest news and updates…

Porter load of nonsense

Grammy-award-winning singer Gregory Porter is currently performing as part of Nasa’s official live stream.

Now I’ve truly seen it all.

T-minus 23 minutes to liftoff…

So what will Perseverance do, exactly?

A whole lot of stuff, according to Nasa…

Should today’s launch go to plan, Perseverance, which is part of a Nasa mission dubbed Mars 2020, will touch down on the Red Planet next year.

It’s gunning for Mars’s Jezero crater, which is once held an ancient lake that may have been home to alien microbes billions of years ago.

Perseverance will dig up rock and soil samples to look for signs of ancient fossils, alongside a long list of other scientific goals.

“The Mars 2020 mission addresses high-priority science goals for Mars exploration, including key questions about the potential for life on Mars,” Nasa says on its website.

“The mission takes the next step by not only seeking signs of habitable conditions on Mars in the ancient past, but also searching for signs of past microbial life itself.”

As well as hunting for signs of aliens, Perseverance will gather rock and soil samples for possible return to Earth.

Stored in small metal tubes, those samples will be fired into orbit and flown home in 2028 by spacecraft built by the European Space Agency.

“That would help scientists study the samples in laboratories with special room-sized equipment that would be too large to take to Mars,” Nasa said.

How’s the weather looking?

Pretty rosy, actually! Nasa’s live stream shows clear blue skies while there’s wind speeds of just 4mph at Cape Canaveral.

Nasa has just said “everything is charging towards” launch at the opening of the launch window at 7:50am ET (12:50pm BST).

Rocket launches are extremely sensitive to changes in the weather, so don’t be surprised if gets pushed back last-minute.

Robot rocket

Here’s Perseverance atop its Atlas V rocket at Cape Canaveral on Wednesday.

Encased in the nose cone that will protect it during launch, the rover (and its rocket) will hit speeds of up to 10,000 miles per hour (16,000kph) during their journey to space.

Once beyond Earth’s atmosphere, the rocket’s first two stages will separate followed by the protective fairload casing that currently surrounds Perseverance.

The rover will then begin its seven-month journey to the Red Planet.

It’s Nasa launch day!

Hello space fans, and welcome to The Sun’s live blog of Nasa’s latest missions to Mars!

The US space agency will be firing a high-tech rover called Perseverance to the Red Planet today in a bid to, among other things, find signs of past (or maybe even present) alien life.

Today’s launch will take place at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The launch window is open for roughly two hours starting at 7:50am ET (12:50pm BST).

If conditions aren’t right, Nasa will scratch the launch and reschedule it for another day. It has multiple possible reschedule dates between now and August 15.

It’s a huge day for Nasa. The space agency has a lot riding on the $2.1billion (£1.6billion) rover, both literally and figuratively.

As well as a state-of-the-art drill for digging up Martian rocks, Perseverance is loaded with spacesuit materials that will be exposed to the harsh environment of Mars.

Nasa is testing the materials, including a piece of helmet visor, to work out what its astronauts should wear on Mars when they land there in the (hopefully) 2030s.

A 1.8-kilo (4lb) helicopter drone will ride on the rover’s belly all the way to the Red Planet.

Dubbed the Mars Helicopter, it will perform the first powered flight on Mars. It’s designed to test whether flight is possible on Mars as part of research for future missions.

Perseverance’s primary goal, however, is to dig up soil and rock samples that it will analyse for signs of alien life.

The rover will land in Mars’s Jezero crater in February 2021, which once held an ancient lake that could have been home to tiny microbes billions of years ago.

It follows Mars missions launched by both China and the United Arab Emirates in recent weeks.

Some have called Beijing’s mission, which if successful will mark the first time the country has landed on Mars, as the starting pistol in the race with the US to land humans on the Red Planet.

All eyes on Florida for today’s launch, then…

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