Given how well things have been going on Earth lately, sending a robotic vehicle into space to scope out Mars is an even more intriguing idea than usual. And right now, it looks like the launch of NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover is one of the few trips that hasn’t been cancelled in recent months. If you’re into space, or just want something new to look at, here’s how to watch the event live.
How to see the Mars rover launch
The Mars 2020 Perseverance rover is scheduled to blast off Thursday night Australian time from Space Launch Complex 41 at the nearby Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The two-hour window for the launch begins at 10.50pm AEST, though live coverage begins at 10pm AEST, according to NASA.
For Australians, your best bet is to plan to watch it online, via NASA Live, their official live stream service.
Social media events
In addition to giving people the opportunity to watch the rover launch live, NASA has also put together a number of social media events and activities, using the hashtag #CountdownToMars. While there are several different elements (like educational toolkits and a Mars photo booth), the primary feature is a Facebook group that is open to any social media users.
According to NASA, participants of the #CountdowntoMars social media event will get a chance to:
Connect virtually with like-minded space enthusiasts as we #CountdownToMars
Receive a NASA Social badge that you can share online or print at home
Virtually tour NASA facilities at Kennedy Space Centre
Interact with NASA team members in real time
View the launch of the Atlas V rocket that will send Perseverance to Mars
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Thursday’s launch is just the most recent example of our longstanding fascination with the Red Planet. As Marc Hartzman, author of The Big Book of Mars: From Ancient Egypt to The Martian, A Deep-Space Dive into Our Obsession with the Red Planet tells Lifehacker:
“For thousands of years we humans have been asking the same questions. Where did we come from? Is anybody else out there? As recently as a hundred years ago scientists believed intelligent Martians were trying to communicate with us. They were wrong, but with Mars being our closest neighbour, it’s our best chance to find some sort of answers to those age-old questions. The Perseverance rover will continue the search for evidence of ancient life in Jezero crater. Will it find it something? And if so, what does it mean about the origin of life and the distribution of life across the universe? Just how special are we?”
These questions won’t be answered on Thursdays launch, but it may be worth setting an alarm to watch the launch on NASA’s YouTube channel, starting at 10pm AEST.