HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - Perseverance has started the journey to the red planet.
NASA launched the rover Thursday shortly before 7 a.m. with no reported issues.
See the full launch here:
This launches a years-long mission to figure out if the planet ever hosted life. The rover is equipped with instruments that will excavate samples and leave them on Mars — so that one day they can be returned to Earth for study.
NASA is teaming up with the European Space Agency to return the samples to Earth around 2031. This unprecedented effort will involve multiple launches and spacecraft — and cost more than $8 billion.
"We don't know if life existed there or not. But we do know that Mars at one point in its history was habitable," NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said on the eve of launch.
The U.S. remains the only country to land successfully at Mars. If all goes well next February, Perseverance will become the ninth U.S. spacecraft to operate on the Martian surface.