Throughout this time, NASA will be working out any potential problems that could hinder the launch, and then once checks are made, they will be buckling up with the rest of us as the Atlas 5 rocket from United Launch Alliance will begin its launch from Cape Canaveral. "We're carrying about 50% more surface payload than Curiosity did, and that was by far the most complex thing we had ever done up until that time", Matt Wallace, Mars 2020 deputy program manager, said at a pre-launch briefing.
"The launch of NASA's Perseverance rover and the UK's own Sample Fetch Rover vehicle, being developed in Stevenage, represents another critical step in building up our knowledge of life on the Red Planet".
Jet Propulsion Laboratory Director Mike Watkins quipped about the California quake: "It was just the Earth being excited about going to Mars".
Perseverance and Ingenuity are scheduled to arrive on Mars in February 2021. "It's there", said astronaut Buzz Aldrin, "waiting to be reached".
Sue Horne, head of space exploration at the UK Space Agency, told the PA news agency: "We will continue to explore the heavens so long as the moon, Mars and the myriad celestial bodies beyond spark fires in our curiosity and if Perseverance helps us find life on Mars, it will be a defining moment for humankind". This has been chosen specifically because it's a prime spot for finding any evidence of microbiological life that might exist, since it contains one of the best-preserved deposits of a river delta on Mars.
The U.S., the only country to safely put a spacecraft on Mars, is seeking its ninth successful landing on the planet, which has proved to be the Bermuda Triangle of space exploration, with more than half of the world's missions there burning up, crashing or otherwise ending in failure.
Perseverance's primary mission is to scour the planet for evidence of ancient life forms.
DOE has enabled space exploration on almost 30 missions over the past 50 years, including the Curiosity rover which is now on Mars, US Under Secretary for Science Paul Dabaar said.
"We have left the building!" said Adam Steltzner, chief engineer for the Perseverance rover team, speaking from JPL during the launch webcast.
Aboard Perseverance is a four-pound (1.8 kg) autonomous helicopter named Ingenuity that is due to test powered flight on Mars for the first time.
Perseverance will carry out an experiment to convert elements of the carbon dioxide-rich Martian atmosphere into propellant for future rockets launching off the planet's surface, or to produce breathable oxygen for future astronauts. Once on the surface of Mars, that computer will help the rover to "think while driving". The five samples, which include a piece of helmet visor, will be studied by an instrument called SHERLOC (Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman & Luminescence for Organics & Chemicals).