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'It's super exciting': UNLV professor works with NASA on Mars 2020 rover launch

Posted at 2:31 PM, Jul 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-30 01:23:48-04

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — At some point you've probably pondered the age-old question: Are we alone in the universe?

A UNLV associate professor is trying to solve that and several other space mysteries, and she's teaming up with NASA and the Perseverance rover to do it.

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NASA will launch the Perseverance rover to Mars at 4:50 a.m. on Thursday (7:50 a.m. EST).

The agency's chief scientist, Dr. James Green, shared an update on Wednesday about how it all works (watch the full update below), and he received help from Las Vegas scientist and UNLV Associate Professor Libby Hausrath.

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Hausrath works in the UNLV Department of Geoscience and is a part of NASA's Mars 2020 team.

She and several other scientists from around the country will watch as the rover takes off from Cape Canaveral in Florida on Thursday, en route to Mars' Jezero crater.

Hausrath says that crater is a dry lake bed so NASA will look for signs of past liquid water, lake sediments, and even the potential for signs living creatures once existed on the Red Planet.

She says there's no telling what they'll find on the new frontier.

"It's super exciting," said Hausrath.

"I think that something we're going to see is something we don't expect," she predicted. "Because Mars has surprised us on every mission in terms of what we've seen."

Hausrath says her team is also working to plot paths for the rover that could provide the best samples for them and says the mission will be a first in several ways, including launching a helicopter from the martian surface.