NASA has marked April 8 as the first possible flight date for its Mars helicopter technology demonstrator, which arrived on the planet on Feb. 18 attached to the Perseverance rover. Named Ingenuity, the demonstrator is designed to be the first powered, controlled aircraft to fly on another planet. Once it detaches from the rover, the helicopter will have 30 Martian days (sols) to complete its flight test program.
“When NASA’s Sojourner rover landed on Mars in 1997, it proved that roving the Red Planet was possible and completely redefined our approach to how we explore Mars,” said Lori Glaze, director of the Planetary Science Division at NASA Headquarters. “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.”
According to NASA, Perseverance is currently heading toward the site chosen for the Ingenuity’s attempt at flight. It will take six sols to deploy the 1.8-kilogram (4-pound) rotorcraft, after which its internal heaters and power supply will be tasked with keeping it functional through nighttime temperatures down to as low as minus 130 degrees Fahrenheit. Up to five flight attempts are planned for the 30-sol testing window.