NASA’s mini helicopter has safely deployed on Mars, making the stage for a possible first flight on another world ‘Red Planet’.
The four-pound helicopter, called Ingenuity, made the long journey from Earth stowed away under the Perseverance wanderer, which landed in February. On Saturday, NASA affirmed that Ingenuity had securely isolated from the wanderer’s belly and survived the four-inch drop to Mars’ surface.
The successful deployment brings NASA one bit nearer to its first effort to test the chance of powered, controlled flight on another planet — which could one day permit researchers to notice and investigate parts of Mars’ surface that meanderers can’t reach.
NASA has contrasted Ingenuity’s experimental mission with the Wright brothers’ historic first flight in 1903, which introduced the aerial age on Earth.
Ingenuity could take off as early as April 11, starting a series of up to five test flights over Jezero Crater, where Perseverance arrived, over a one-month period.
For the present, the project is simply experimental, focused on showing a new technology as opposed to helping the Perseverance mission, which is right now wandering Mars for indications of antiquated life and gathering samples from the planet’s surface.
The helicopter’s first flight will be a short one: Ingenuity will ascend around 10 feet from the ground, hover in the air for under a minute, at that point land. However, NASA says that the short trip would mark a significant achievement.
“In alien conditions with almost no atmosphere, it’s reinventing flight on another world,” NASA said in its trailer for the mission. “If this 30-day experiment succeeds, it may pave the way for future aerial explorers.”
Surviving the 293 million mile journey to Mars and securely dropping from Perseverance was the first in a series of achievements the helicopter should cross before its inaugural flight. Then, Ingenuity should keep itself warm and functional through the amazingly cool nights on Mars, which can see temperatures as low as minus 130 degrees Fahrenheit.
The helicopter previously depended on the rover’s power system, yet now Ingenuity should rely upon internal heaters and charge its batteries using a solar panel.
More technical obstacles for Ingenuity lie ahead, such as taking off in Mars’ thin atmosphere.
Albeit the Red Planet has around 33% of the gravity of Earth, its atmosphere at the surface is only 1% as thick. That implies that absent a lot of air to push against, it’s harder to produce lift.
After getting commands from Earth transferred through the Perseverance wanderer, the helicopter will likewise need to make each test flight without real-time input from mission control.
Yet, on the off chance that Ingenuity’s investigations demonstrate success, the technology could support future robotic and surprisingly human missions to Mars by giving new aerial viewpoints, capturing high-definition pictures, or carrying small payloads starting with one site then onto the next.