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Ingenuity Helicopter's First Flight On Mars Set For April 8

marshelicopter march24 lt

A helicopter that landed on Mars aboard NASA's Perseverance Rover spacecraft last month will attempt its first flight on the planet on April 8.

It will be the first attempt at powered, controlled flight of an aircraft on another planet.

The 4-pound rotorcraft remains attached to the belly of the Perseverance rover, the science robot that touched down on Mars on February 18.

On March 21, the rover deployed the guitar case-shaped graphite composite debris shield that protected Ingenuity during landing. The rover currently is in transit to the "airfield" where Ingenuity will attempt to fly. Once deployed, Ingenuity will have 30 Martian days, or sols, (31 Earth days) to conduct its test flight campaign.

"We want to learn about the potential Ingenuity has for the future of science research," said Lori Glaze, director of the Planetary Science Division at NASA Headquarters.

She added, "Aptly named, Ingenuity is a technology demonstration that aims to be the first powered flight on another world and, if successful, could further expand our horizons and broaden the scope of what is possible with Mars exploration."

Flying in a controlled manner on Mars is far more difficult than flying on Earth. The Red Planet has significant gravity but its atmosphere is just 1 percent as dense as Earth's at the surface.

During Martian daytime, the planet's surface receives only about half the amount of solar energy that reaches Earth during its daytime, and night time temperatures can drop as low as minus 90 degrees Celsius, which can freeze and crack unprotected electrical components.

The Ingenuity helicopter- from the performance of its rotors in rarified air to its solar panels, electrical heaters, and other components - has been tested and retested in the vacuum chambers and test labs of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California.

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