On Thursday, the launch window for NASA's Perseverance rover -- a mission announced more than seven years ago -- officially opens and the robotic astrobiologist will finally begin its journey to Mars.
Perseverance will be strapped to a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, and launch from the Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
READ MORE PERSEVERANCE ROVER NEWS FROM INVERSE
NASA will air live coverage of the launch preparations, and the launch itself on NASA television, as well as online on the space agency's website.
Here's how to watch the 2020 Mars rover launch from your computer.
What time does the Mars 2020 rover launch?
The launch window for Perseverance will open on Thursday, July 30 at 7:50 a.m. Eastern. It will stay open for two hours, with an opportunity for takeoff every five minutes.
The Perseverance mission is on an orbital constraint, meaning that its launch to Mars depends on planetary alignment between Earth and Mars, which takes place during three crucial weeks every 26 months.
Therefore, if NASA does not launch the rover within the window between July 30-August 15, the space agency would have to wait until September, 2022 in order to try again.
How to watch the Mars 2020 rover launch?
NASA's live coverage of the launch event will begin on Thursday at 7 a.m. Eastern as the agency begins its preparations for the launch that will take place at Cape Canaveral in Florida.
Following the launch, a post-launch discussion is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. Eastern.
Last week, Perseverance was packed into the payload fairing (the rocket's nose cone) which was maneuvered into place this week atop of the Atlas V rocket, a vehicle by United Launch Alliance, a joint venture company by Boeing and Lockeed Martin. The rover made its way to Cape Canaveral earlier in February, where it has been undergoing final preparations for the launch ever since.
Perseverance passed its Flight Readiness Review on July 22, and its Launch Readiness Review on Monday, July 27.
What are the Mars 2020 mission goals?
The goal of the Perseverance mission is to look for clues of ancient life on Mars. These will help scientists understand the history of the planet, which is hypothesized to have once been a wet, habitable world. The rover will also collect Martian samples, stowing them away for a future return to Earth.
It will look for signs of habitability on the Martian surface and past microbial life, collecting samples of rocks and soil and setting them aside for a future mission to return them back to Earth.
The mission will also test out conditions for possible human exploration of Mars by trialing a method of producing oxygen from the Martian atmosphere, characterizing environmental conditions such as water and dust on Mars, and looking for resources.
How long will it take the rover to get to Mars?
Perseverance is expected to make the 62 million mile journey to Mars in about six months, landing on Mars on February, 18, 2021.
The Perseverance rover will join Curiosity rover, which landed on Mars back in August, 2012, and is still roaming the Red Planet to this day.
Although Perseverance rover is set to spend at least one Martian year on the planet — the equivalent of 687 days on Earth, the mission may also be extended.