The Perseverance Rover was shot into space on July 30, with the launch event being very smooth. New data has shown that the rover has been observed by a satellite and a robotic telescope as it travels towards Mars.
GOES-16, a water satellite which is used to track terrestrial and space weather events, observed the smoke plume that was released during the launch from Cape Canaveral. The launch was perceived by the satellite as an impressive red streak on the channel related to water vapor
For the launch of the rover, NASA and the United Launch Alliance decided to use two main rocket stages accompanied by four rocket boosters, creating an array which generated a massive amount of force. The extra power was needed as the rover is quite heavy at 1,050 kilograms (or 2.341 lbs).
Once the first stage of the rocket ran out of fuel, it separated and returned back to Earth, catching fire during re-entry. The Virtual Telescope Project observed the burning booster for three minutes while also catching a glimpse of the protective shell that will keep Perseverance safe as it travels to the Red Planet.
Like a star
According to the manager of the Virtual Telescope Project, the fast apparent motion of the spacecraft was of interest for the telescope, and the spacecraft itself appears as a noticeable dot of light at the center of captured images.
NASA has lofty ambitions for the rover, which should land in the Jezero Crater on February 18, 2021. One of the main aims of the missions is to track down traces of ancient life on Mars. Valuable material could be brought back to Earth during a future mission for in-depth analysis.
While two glitches were encountered post-launch, they were addressed quickly, and the mission hasn’t run into major problems for now.