NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter Prepares for Takeoff

NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter can be seen here with all four of its legs deployed before dropping from the belly of the Perseverance rover on March 30, 2021, the 39th Martian day, or sol, of the mission. This image was taken by the WATSON (Wide Angle Topographic Sensor for Operations and eNgineering) camera on the SHERLOC (Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman and Luminescence for Organics and Chemicals) instrument, located at the end of the rover’s long robotic arm.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Beginning April 2021, the window opens for the first flight of NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter. (Currently, the first flight is expected no earlier than April 11.) It will be history’s first attempt at powered, controlled flight on another planet. Ingenuity arrived at Mars on February 18, 2021, riding along with NASA’s Perseverance rover.

Before it attempts takeoff, the Mars Helicopter must first survive the arduous journey to Mars – from the turbulent liftoff to the harrowing landing – as well as dangerously cold nights where it must maintain power to keep itself warm enough to operate. The duration of Ingenuity’s mission is 30 days, where one or more test flights will be attempted.

As a technology demonstration, Ingenuity is testing a new capability for the first time: showing controlled flight is possible in the very thin Martian atmosphere. If successful, Ingenuity could lead to an aerial dimension to space exploration, aiding both robots and humans in the future.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory built and manages operations of Perseverance and Ingenuity for the agency. Caltech in Pasadena, California, manages JPL for NASA. WATSON was built by Malin Space Science Systems (MSSS) in San Diego and is operated jointly by MSSS and JPL.

The Mars helicopter technology demonstration activity is supported by NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, the NASA Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate, and the NASA Space Technology Mission Directorate.

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