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The NASA Ingenuity helicopter is ready for its first flight to Mars

Apr, 2021

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According to NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration), the Ingenuity Mars helicopter will take-off for the first time to the Red Planet on April 8 or later, based on atmosphere and pre-flight checks. It would be the first power-operated flight on another planet if it is successful.

The Ingenuity helicopter is a scientific milestone on par with the successful deployment of the first rover to Mars. Since a radio wave takes an average of 750 seconds to pass from Earth to Mars, Ingenuity must be able to fly fully autonomously. As the Perseverance rover rolls into the "airfield," the 4-pound robotic aircraft is strapped to the underside. NASA has also made the first step towards flight through discarding the graphite composite debris shield which covered Ingenuity throughout landing. When Perseverance enters the center of the 10-by-10-meter airfield, flight controllers will begin the complicated task of launching the helicopter and conducting the required preflight tests and over span of six days on Mars, including sols.

On the first sol, a bolt-breaking mechanism will be used to free Ingenuity from the SUV-sized rover, and on the second sol, a robotic arm will be released so it can twist Ingenuity out of its horizontal position while stretching two of its four landing legs. A tiny electric motor would complete the craft's rotation on the third sol. This would be supplemented by the deployment of the second set of landing legs on the fourth sol. Ingenuity would be elevated 5 inches above the ground at this point on sol five. The helicopter should be set down and the rover must roll 5 meters away from the rover so the solar panels on the helicopter can be opened to the sun on sol six if all systems are proven to be working. An onboard mission clock with a 31-day timer will begin at this stage. Mission control will continue training at this period, including a non-flight power-up of the rotors to 2,537 rpm.

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