UPDATE: NASA's Mars rover is now on its way to the Red Planet.
The Atlas V rocket carrying NASA's most expensive and ambitious Mars rover to date blasted off early today from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
The rocket jumped off Launch Complex 41 on time at 10:02 a.m.
Some 42 minutes into flight, the Mars Science Laboratory separated from the rocket's Centaur upper stage, triggering applause in mission control.
"The countdown went very smoothly...we got off on the first opportunity...right on the money," said NASA Launch Director Omar Baez. "The flight looked great, our parameters looked great."
This $2.5 billion mission is considered a flagship project for NASA.
Due to arrive on the Red Planet on Aug. 6, the rover, named Curiosity, will be trying to determine whether Mars could have harbored primitive life. Its equipped with state-of-the-art science instruments to help scientists get the best picture yet of Mars' evolutionary history.
The rover is fueled by plutonium, which required extensive pre-launch safety preparations in case of a launch accident. There was only a 1 in 420 chance of a launch accident that would result in the release of plutonium.