NASA’s Perseverance rover bound for Mars to seek ancient life Jul 31, 2020 0 1550 12345 AFPCape CanaveralNASA’s latest Mars rover Perseverance launched on Thursday on an astrobiology mission to look for signs of ancient microbial life on the Red Planet -- and to fly a helicopter-drone on another world for the first time.A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket took off on schedule at 7:50 am (1150 GMT) from Cape Canaveral, Florida, and the first stage separated minutes later.About an hour after launch, the spaceship carrying Perseverance to Mars broke away from the upper-stage Centaur rocket.If all goes to plan, Perseverance will reach Mars on February 18, 2021, becoming the fifth rover to complete the voyage since 1997.So far, all have been American. China launched its first Mars rover last week, which should arrive by May 2021.By next year, Mars could have three active rovers, including NASA’s Curiosity, which has traversed 23 kilometres (14 miles) of the Martian surface since it landed in 2012.Thursday’s launch also took place despite a raging coronavirus pandemic, which has hit the United States harder than any country.NASA chief Jim Bridenstine said the pandemic made it even more important that mission went ahead as planned. “We have a history of doing amazing things in the most challenging times, and this is this is no different,” he said, shortly before take-off.Perseverance is an improved version of Curiosity -- faster, smarter, and capable of autonomously navigating 200 meters per day.About the size of a small SUV, it weighs a metric ton, has 19 cameras and two microphones -- which scientists hope will be the first to record sound on Mars. It has a two-meter-long robotic arm, and is powered by a small nuclear battery.Once on the surface, NASA will deploy the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter -- a small 1.8 kilogramme (four pound) aircraft that will attempt to fly in an atmosphere that is only one percent the density of Earth’s. RELATED ARTICLES Coronavirus deaths top 150,000 in worst-hit US Jul 31, 2020 0 3080 (Stand-alone) Jul 31, 2020 0 1278 French cities tighten virus measures as cases rise Jul 31, 2020 0 1270 Coronavirus numbers improve slightly in Spain’s hotspots MADRID: The number of daily new coronavirus infections has slightly declined in Spain’s hardest-hit regions, authorities said on Thursday. Especially in the Catalan regions Lleida and Barcelona, which recently .. Scottish schools set for full return in mid-August LONDON: Children in Scotland can return to schools full-time in the middle of next month, the devolved government said on Thursday as it eases coronavirus lockdown measures. It will be the first time since March that .. UK extends coronavirus self-isolation period from 7 to 10 days LONDON: Britain on Thursday extended the period of coronavirus self-isolation from seven to 10 days, as fears grew over a surge in cases. The UK’s chief medical officers said scientific evidence now showed that people .. WHO says it overestimated ability of wealthy countries to fight COVID-19 DPA Geneva The health systems of wealthy countries performed more poorly than expected during the early phase of the COVID-19 crisis, WHO emergency operations chief Mike Ryan said on Thursday in Geneva. It was .. Hong Kong row has ‘poisoned’ ties with UK: China’s ambassador AFP London Britain’s “interventions” in Hong Kong have “seriously poisoned the atmosphere” of relations with China, Beijing’s ambassador in London warned on Thursday. Liu Xiaoming also accused Western powers and .. Prominent Hong Kong democracy activists barred from election HONG KONG: A dozen Hong Kong democracy activists were disqualified on Thursday from standing in September’s legislative elections, a move decried by candidates as the most pressing assault yet on Beijing’s critics in .. Trump suggests delay in presidential election over coronavirus fears AFP Washington US President Donald Trump on Thursday suggested delaying the 2020 election, in which he is currently lagging badly in the polls, citing the coronavirus and what he said would be “fraudulent” voting. ..