Artist's illustration of the Mars Ingenuity helicopter. Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Perseverance will carry new tech to Mars that represents major technological advances since NASA's last rover — Curiosity — landed on the Red Planet in 2012.

Why it matters: These new experiments and technology demonstrations will fill in gaps in knowledge scientists have about the world and set up future robotic missions in the process.

Details: NASA's Ingenuity helicopter heading to Mars with Perseverance is a technology demonstration designed to autonomously fly through Mars' thin atmosphere as a proof of concept for a full-scale mission in the future.

  • "After receiving commands from Earth relayed through the rover, each test flight is performed without real-time input from Mars Helicopter mission controllers," NASA wrote in a fact sheet.
  • Perseverance will also record sounds from the surface of Mars and during its landing once it arrives about seven months after launch.
  • The scientific tool will allow scientists to listen in as the rover performs its tasks and possibly aid in experiments as Perseverance uses its powerful laser to investigate the composition of Martian rocks.
  • Perseverance's SHERLOC instrument, which is mounted to the rover's robotic arm, will search for organic compounds and possible biosignatures on Mars while also testing out pieces of spacesuit fabric for future human missions.

The big picture: All of these instruments will give scientists a more comprehensive look at Mars than they've had in the past, adding to the data collected by other rovers, landers and orbiters over the decades.

What to watch: Perseverance and all of its technological goodies are expected to leave for Mars Thursday at 7:50am ET from Florida atop a ULA Atlas V rocket.

  • You can watch the launch live via NASA TV starting at 7am ET and follow the Space channel on the Axios app for continuing coverage of the mission.

Go deeper

Aug 11, 2020 - Science

Researchers use Hubble Telescope to study Earth as an alien planet

Earth seen from orbit at night. Photo: NASA

The Hubble Space Telescope observed Earth as future tools could one day see a distant, alien planet.

Why it matters: These kinds of analogous experiments using Earth in place of an exoplanet (a world orbiting another star) give scientists a chance to see what a habitable planet may look like through telescopes if one is eventually found.

Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 9 p.m. ET: 20,755,406 — Total deaths: 752,225— Total recoveries: 12,917,934Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 9 p.m. ET: 5,246,760 — Total deaths: 167,052 — Total recoveries: 1,774,648 — Total tests: 64,831,306Map.
  3. Politics: House Democrats to investigate scientist leading "Operation Warp Speed" vaccine projectMcConnell announces Senate will not hold votes until Sept. 8 unless stimulus deal is reached.
  4. 2020: Biden calls for 3-month national mask mandateBiden and Harris to receive coronavirus briefings 4 times a week.
  5. States: Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp to drop lawsuit over Atlanta's mask mandate.
  6. Business: Why the CARES Act makes 2020 the best year for companies to lose money.
  7. Public health: Fauci's guidance on pre-vaccine coronavirus treatments Cases are falling, but don't get too comfortable.

Trump says he intends to give RNC speech on White House lawn

President Trump speaking to reporters on South Lawn in July. Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

President Trump told the New York Post on Thursday that he plans to deliver his Republican National Convention speech from the White House lawn, despite bipartisan criticism of the optics and legality of the location.

Why it matters: Previous presidents avoided blurring staged campaign-style events — like party conventions — with official business of governing on the White House premises, per Politico.