NASA has been gearing up for the historic first flight of a helicopter on the surface of Mars. The first flight will take place with the Ingenuity helicopter featuring large counterrotating blades. Ingenuity has been stored away under the Perseverance rover for many months before Perseverance launched and since Perseverance landed on the Red Planet.
NASA has now officially announced that the Ingenuity helicopter has been placed on the surface of Mars. This marks the first time in the 293 million-mile journey that Ingenuity has stood on its own feet. NASA says that the first flight of the helicopter is just over a week away.
NASA had been making preparations to place Ingenuity on the surface of Mars for several days. The final distance the helicopter had to travel was only about four inches from the belly of Perseverance to the surface of the planet. Ingenuity weighs about four pounds and gets its power from the sun. It has an internal rechargeable battery used to keep systems warm and operational during frigid Martian nights. NASA says Ingenuity was attached to Perseverance because the helicopter has been using the rover’s nuclear power system to stay warm.
Ingenuity is now using its internal heater to stay warm. That heater keeps the interior about 45 degrees Fahrenheit during the cold Martian night, where temperatures can be as low as -130 degrees Fahrenheit. Keeping the helicopter at 45 degrees Fahrenheit protects components like the battery and sensitive electronics from harm.
NASA currently plans to make the first flight with Ingenuity on April 11. Data from the test will reach Earth on April 12. Ingenuity cost $85 million and is the first helicopter ever sent to another planet. If the mission is successful, Ingenuity could change the way Mars is explored in the future.