The First Helicopter To Fly On Mars Is As Small As A Tennis Ball

Dhir Acharya - Jul 30, 2020


The First Helicopter To Fly On Mars Is As Small As A Tennis Ball

NASA will soon launch the Perseverance rover, accompanied by a tiny helicopter called Ingenuity, which could be the first aircraft to fly on Mars.

NASA will soon launch the Perseverance rover to Mars, but it won’t be alone. The new explorer will be accompanied by a tiny helicopter called Ingenuity, which could be the first aircraft to fly outside of the Earth.

The Perseverance rover and Ingenuity helicopter are set for a launch at 7:50 a.m, Thursday, July 30, ET time. They are expected to land at the Jezro crater in February next year and the Ingenuity will be deployed a few months from then. If things go as planned, the tiny helicopter will become the first man-made aircraft to try controlled flight on a different planet than Earth.

Ingenuity Mars Helicopter
Ingenuity helicopter

NASA also wants to test this concept, from which it aims at developing more ambitious projects. Previous demos include the Mars Pathfinder rover in 1997 and Mars Cube One nanosatellites in 2018, the smallest machines ever zipping past a planet.

The concept is described to have the capability of landing and accessing designated targets in a controlled manner. It could also carry and retrieve payloads. Such helicopters can benefit rover missions by figuring out safe traverse routes or offering reconnaissance on target destinations. It could also reach places that a rover cannot.

But before the next step, NASA will evaluate Ingenuity’s performance on the Martian surface. In 30 days, it will have 5 flight tests, each up to 90 seconds top and at a height of 3-10 meters.  It will fly autonomously and communicate with the rover after landing.

The helicopter is as small as a softball, weighing 1.8 kilograms, featuring 2 rotary blades, each of which measures 1.2 meters long and rotate in opposite directions. It also has four landing legs, an antenna, as well as a solar panel for battery charging.

Ingenuity helicopter
Ingenuity helicopter

The Ingenuity will be released from a small distance from the ground, but the weaker gravity on Mars won’t likely pose any issue to this. About a week after the release, if all conditions are satisfied, the helicopter will get to its first test flight.

The helicopter is a small start to something much bigger. NASA has the ambition to launch more aircraft on Mars for various uses, and it all began with the tiny Ingenuity.

>>> India Is Among The Nations With The Most Satellites In The World

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