NASA has announced that it will fly its helicopter on Mars in the first week of April. The agency said that all modalities are in place for the flight. This will be the first time when a helicopter will fly on the Red Planet. According to the agency, engineers will attempt to fly Ingenuity on April 8. Ingenuity is a mini-helicopter that is attached to Perseverance. The helicopter weighs 1.8 kg. It will be a controlled flight and the first since the rover landed on the planet in February 2020. NASA said that the successful flight will see engineers achieving a series of daunting milestones. It will also pave the way for planning similar flights on Moon and other celestial objects.
NASA said that scientists want to demonstrate how this helicopter flight will redefine the approach towards Mars. It said that the scientific approach for Mars was changed in 1977. It was in 1977 when the Sojourner rover arrived at the Red Planet. It proved that roving Mars was possible. The future missions were then redefined accordingly. Data obtained during the upcoming helicopter flight will tell scientists about the expansion of research horizons on Mars. The agency is confident that technology used in Ingenuity will give expected results. Besides, it will broaden the scope of the planet’s exploration. Perseverance has already deployed the shield that protected Ingenuity at the time of landing. The rover is in transit to the airfield where the mini-helicopter will attempt the powered and controlled flight.
A controlled flight on Mars is much more difficult than a similar flight on Earth. The planet’s gravity and atmosphere are different from Earth’s. According to NASA, Ingenuity will have 30 days after deployment for the flight. It will take almost six days to complete the deployment process. Mars’ surface during the daytime receives nearly 50 percent of the solar energy that reaches Earth’s surface. The night temperatures drop as low as -90 degrees Celsius. These extreme weather conditions can damage electrical components. To survive the Martian nights, the helicopter needs to have enough power to keep its internal heaters active.