March 30, 2021

Mars to See First Helicopter Flight

As NASA’s Mars rover, Perseverance, searches the landscape for any hint of life, a smaller vehicle is waiting to spread its wings for a first-time feat on the planet.

The rover is currently on its way to the area where it will drop the 1.8-kilogram rotorcraft – named Ingenuity Mars Helicopter – from its belly.

Once deployed on 8 April, NASA expects to make the first attempt at a controlled flight with the miniature chopper, which was created by Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, USA.

The main challenges at present are finding the right spot for the test flight, and if the lightweight craft will operate effectively on the planet’s solar energy.

According to the aeronautical agency, Mars has one-third of Earth’s gravity, with a surface atmosphere 1% as dense. It also receives only half of the solar energy during the daytime.

Tim Canham, head of NASA’s helicopter operations team, said: “We have 90 seconds of terror every single time we fly, because once we send the command in the morning to say ‘fly’ – we send then a whole heap of commands then hit go – there’s nothing we can do to change the outcome at that point.”

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