When the Perseverance Rover left for Mars in July 2020, tucked in the vehicle’s belly was National Aeronautics and Space Agency (NASA) Ingenuity helicopter set to make trips around Mars’s atmosphere soon. The historic flight was scheduled to take off on April 8, but there have been changes to the date.
According to a tweet made by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), the small robotic helicopter will take off for the mission on April 11. This aircraft will be the world’s first controlled, powered flight through another planet’s atmosphere.
“Come fly with us. #MarsHelicopter is preparing to something that has never been done; controlled, powered flight on another planet. Takeoff is now slated for no earlier than April 11, with data arriving on Earth on April 12,” the tweet highlighted.
The helicopter has been under the Perseverance Rover protection since it took off from the Florida Space Coast on top of the Atlas V rocket. When the Rover shed its protective shield, the aircraft started to prepare for the flight by unfolding.
According to NASA officials, it takes around six Mars days, known as sols, for the helicopter to unfold and formally deploy for the flight. One sol is equivalent to twenty-four hours and forty minutes on Earth.
“[The helicopter] is stowed sideways, folded up and locked in place, so there is some reverse origami to do before I can set it down. First, though, I’ll be off to the designated ‘helipad,’ a couple days’ drive from here,” stated a tweet by Perseverance team members. The team estimated that the Ingenuity helicopter would commence its mission around Mars in the next thirty-one days after deployment.
This mission will be the first of its kind in the space sector, a technology demonstration that seeks to prove it’s possible to fly a helicopter in space remotely from Earth. The helicopter has a camera to record its movements as it makes short flights in Mars’s atmosphere. The Perseverance Rover also has cameras to capture the events from a standby position.
“Ingenuity is an experimental engineering flight test-we want to see if we can fly at Mars. There are no science instruments onboard and no goals to obtain scientific information. We are confident that all the engineering data we want to obtain both on the surface of Mars and aloft can be done within this 30-sol window,” said Ingenuity project manager MiMi Aung.
NASA officials expect the Mars test flight to be tough, saying the plan is to “work whatever the Red planet throws at us.” “Mars is hard,” added Aung. “Our plan is to work whatever the Red planet throws at us the very same way we handled every challenge we’ve faced over the past six years together, with tenacity and a lot of hard work, and a little Ingenuity.”