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NASA to Fly Helicopter on Mars For First Time

The Perseverance Rover isn’t the only thing landing on Mars Thursday. Hitching a ride on the rover is the first helicopter designed to fly on another planet.

It’s called Ingenuity, and it took years of hard work from top scientific minds to get this 4-pound, multi-million dollar helicopter off the ground and onto the belly of the Mars rover Perseverance.

Illustration depicts Mars Helicopter Ingenuity during a test flight on Mars. Ingenuity was taken to the Red Planet strapped to the belly of the Perseverance rover (seen in the background). Ingenuity is expected to attempt its first flight test in spring 2021. (Photo by NASA)

As ingenuity’s project manager, MiMi Aung oversaw the design and build of the world’s first ever rotor-craft to fly on another planet.

“Leading a project that’s almost as uncertain as you can imagine, but nevertheless, I was attracted to it,” said Aung.

Scientists at NASA’s jet propulsion laboratory in Pasadena started researching the possibility in the 1990s, but the technology to make it a reality wasn’t available until recently.

“The major milestone that is now coming up is doing the actual experiment at Mars, and that’s where my motivation comes from, the Wright Brothers,” added Aung.

It will indeed be a Wright Brothers moment, but instead of the first controlled powered flight on Earth, Ingenuity will prove it’s possible to fly on Mars. That is its only goal on this mission, but first, it will need to survive Thursday’s landing and Mars’ extremely cold nights, which can reach minus 130-degrees.

NASA says the helicopter may fly for up to 90 seconds to distances of almost 980 feet at a time, and about 10 to 15 feet from the round.

This exciting and historic event will open up a new way to explore Mars in future robotic sand human missions to the red planet.

Ingenuity is expected to attempt its first flight test in spring 2021.

For more information on NASA’s Ingenuity Mars helicopter, click here.

Source: NBC Los Angeles

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