NASA's Perseverance rover, now on Mars, is preparing to deploy its mini helicopter that will demonstrate flight on the red planet. The space agency said Wednesday that it wants to have the four-pound Ingenuity helicopter fly on April 8th at the earliest. The helicopter would fly over the Martian surface within 30 Mars days or 31 Earth days.
“Aptly named, Ingenuity is a technology demonstration that aims to be the first powered flight on another world and, if successful, could further expand our horizons and broaden the scope of what is possible with Mars exploration," said Lori Glaze, director of NASA's planetary science division.
Mars has a gravity that is approximately one-third of Earth's and gets half the solar energy received by the human-inhabited planet. NASA designed Ingenuity as a small, lightweight rotorcraft that can operate with Perseverance's limited resources.
The space agency expects Ingenuity's deployment process to take six Mars days, also known as sols. Ingenuity must perform its first flight from a flat patch of Martian land that will serve as an airfield.
“If there is even a hint that something isn’t going as expected, we may decide to hold off for a sol or more until we have a better idea what is going on,” said Farah Alibay, who leads Mars helicopter integration for the Perseverance program.