Nasa Mars launch 2020: what time today the Perseverance rover sets off on mission to Mars - and how to watch live from the UK

Perseverance is the most sophisticated rover NASA has ever sent to Mars

(Image: NASA)
(Image: NASA)

Nasa's latest mission to Mars blasts off today, and you'll be able to stream the historic event from home.

The rover will lift off on 30 July at 7:50 am EDT (12:50pm BST) beginning a seven-month voyage to the Red Planet.

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The Perseverance mission will launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, and won't come into contact with solid ground again until 18 February 2021, when it lands in Mars' Jezero Crater.

Here's everything you need to know about the mission:

What is Perseverance?

Perseverance is the most sophisticated rover NASA has ever sent to Mars.

Once landed, it will search for signs of ancient microbial life, characterise the planet's geology and climate, collect carefully selected and documented rock and sediment samples for return to Earth, and pave the way for human exploration.

Perseverance will also ferry a separate technology experiment to the surface of Mars — a helicopter named Ingenuity, the first aircraft to fly in a controlled way on another planet.

Loaded with scientific instruments, advanced computational capabilities for landing and other new systems, Perseverance is also the largest, heaviest robotic Mars rover Nasa has built.

Here is everything you need to know:

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What is the Jezero Crater?

Jezero Crater on Mars is a 28-mile-wide crater just north of the Martian equator.

The crater was a possible oasis in its distant past, which leads scientists to believe it could have collected and preserved organic molecules and other potential signs of microbial life.

Mars orbiters have been collecting images and data from Jezero Crater from about 200 miles above the planet, but this will be the first time a Nasa rover has got up close and personal with the crater.

Perseverance is also the first rover to bring equipment to Mars that can package rock samples for return to Earth by a future mission.

Perseverance's drill will cut intact rock cores that are about the size of a piece of chalk before placing them in sample tubes.

A Mars sample return mission is being planned by Nasa and the European Space Agency for a future date.

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How can I watch the launch?

Perseverance will lift off on 30 July 30 at 7:50 am EDT (12:50 BST) on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

The launch will be available to stream in full through Nasa TV.

Even once the mission is past the launch stage, you'll still be able to follow its journey every step of the way, and the Mars 2020 Perseverance mission carries more cameras than any interplanetary mission in history.

19 cameras that will deliver images of the landscape in breathtaking detail, and as with previous Mars missions, raw and processed images will be made available on the mission's website.