NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter prepares for first flight

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NASA is planning for an April 8 attempt to make the first powered, controlled flight on another planet with the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter.

Ingenuity is attached to the underside of NASA’s Perseverance rover that touched down on the red planet Feb. 18. On Sunday, the rover deployed a debris shield that protected Ingenuity during landing. The rover was headed Wednesday toward the site where Ingenuity will attempt to fly.

It will take about six days to deploy the helicopter and prepare to fly. Once it’s deployed, Ingenuity will have 31 Earth days — or 30 Martian days, also known as sols — to conduct its test flight campaign.

The helicopter’s first flight will be a 30-second hover at 10 feet above the Martian surface. NASA will then examine the data to determine if the flight was a success.

“Ingenuity is an experimental engineering flight test – we want to see if we can fly at Mars,” NASA Jet Propulsion Lab Ingenuity project manager MiMi Aung said in a news release. “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.”

Once Ingenuity’s first flight data has been analyzed, the Mars Helicopter team will determine how and when to move forward with the next test.

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