Perseverance's drill will collect around 30 intact rock cores and place them in test tubes, to be collected by a future joint US-European mission. It will take the spacecraft seven months to reach Mars after traveling 300 million miles.
It's scheduled for lift-off today at 9.50pm AEST.
The rover will land in Jezero Crater, the site of an ancient river delta that scientists believe may have collected and preserved potential signs of microbial life.
This unprecedented effort will involve multiple launches and spacecraft - and cost more than US$8 billion (AUD$11 billion).
A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket is being prepared for launch from Complex 41 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida on Wednesday, July 29, 2020. And I think that's the question that we all wonder every day, every night is like are we alone in this huge universe or could there be other life out there that we just don't know about yet?
"This is the first time in history where we are going to go to Mars with an explicit mission to find life on another world, ancient life on Mars".
Now it's NASA's turn, as the space agency prepares to send Perseverance, its next-gen rover, to the Red Planet.
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.
Perseverance, fit with 23 cameras, was named by essay contest victor Alex Mather, who wrote, "We will meet many setbacks on the way to Mars".
"There's a lot of things that we need to be able to develop and discover", Bridenstine said, "so that when we get to Mars we can actually survive for long periods of time".
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