(CNN) — The Perseverance rover began its journey to Mars.

The launch of the rover occurred at 7:50 am ET from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

“I am exceptionally excited about what we are about to do because we are going to start on the Mars 2020 mission path with the Perseverance robot,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine during a press conference at the Kennedy Space Center. But there is much more here. This is the first time in history that we go to Mars with an explicit mission to find life in another world: ancient life on Mars.

After traveling through space for about seven months, Perseverance will land in Jezero Crater on Mars on February 18, 2021.

The Mars 2020 mission launched after nearly a decade of hard work and planning by thousands of engineers, scientists, and specialists at NASA centers across the country and its business partners.

Perseverance, NASA’s new Mars rover 1:57

During the final stages of mission preparation, the teams had to face the difficulties of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I really can’t say enough about how amazing this team is,” said Michael Watkins, director of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “They really got down to business and completed this on time and we are ready to go. NASA really came together as a family and it really was a surprisingly smooth experience given all the problems with covid. “

As many at NASA have said, the rover really lives up to its name.

It is one of three missions, including China’s Tianwen-1 (which carries a rover) and the Hope Probe probe from the United Arab Emirates, which will have launched to Mars this boreal summer. This is because opportunities to launch into Mars occur every 26 months when Earth and Mars are aligned on the same side of the Sun, allowing for shorter travel times and less fuel.

Perseverance bears the names of 11 million people who entered NASA’s “Send your name to Mars” campaign, as well as a plaque honoring global health workers in the midst of the pandemic, and some heavenly art. inspiring.

It is the ninth NASA mission to land on the red planet and its fifth scout vehicle. Perseverance’s design and new capabilities are based on lessons learned from previous rovers. This rover is designed to act as an astrobiologist, studying an intriguing site on Mars for signs of ancient life.

A second “brain” in the rover will help Perseverance land on what would once have been an impossible site, riddled with dangers and obstacles.

This terrain-related navigation tool will help Perseverance to autonomously determine the safest place to land. Once on the surface of Mars, that computer will help the rover “think while driving.”

The rover will use a suite of new scientific instruments to explore Jezero Crater, the site of an ancient lake and river delta on Mars. The lake existed between 3,500 and 4,000 million years ago when Mars was wetter, warmer and livable.

Perseverance will look for signs of ancient microbial life that may have once existed on Mars during this time. It will collect and store rock and soil samples to take back to planet Earth on future planned missions. They will be the first Martian samples, apart from Martian meteorites, to return to Earth.