History in the making: NASA is targeting Sunday, April 11, for Ingenuity Mars helicopter’s first attempt at powered, controlled flight on another planet.
The small but mighty helicopter arrived on Mars attached to the belly of the Perseverance rover. Ingenuity is a technology experiment with a narrow scope and limited duration (only a month), aiming to pave the way for more ambitious aerial exploration of other planets in the future.
As Ingenuity makes its historic flights, it also carries with it a piece of history from Earth: a piece of the original Wright Brothers plane.
Flying on Mars isn’t easy: the atmosphere is thin (about 1% the density of Earth’s atmosphere). Ingenuity has to spin its blades much faster than at Earth to get enough lift and be very light (about 4 pounds or 1.8 kg).
The first test flight involves lifting off, climbing to 10 feet (3 meters), hovering for about 30 seconds, and then descending.
This flight will be the first in a series of test flights that will last up to 31 Earth days (30 Martian days or sols), each building in complexity if the previous flight went as planned.
These tests will set the stage for future missions to include advanced robotic flying vehicles, collect high-resolution images from the air and survey sites that are difficult for rovers to reach.