In a hardscrabble crater on Mars, a tiny helicopter with a smartphone brain is now days away from trying the first powered flight to another world. NASA hopes that its spindly robotic helicopter, named ingenuity, will prove that thin flight is possible in dangerously thin Martian air and help us enter a new era of planetary exploration in which drones play an important role.
The ingenuity reached Mars like a monsoon, folding beneath NASA’s Perseverance rover, which landed on the red planet in February after a seven-month, 293 million mile journey from Earth. For its first flight, the 4-pound, million 85 million craft will rise about 10 feet above the surface and before returning to the surface, no regulation will hover higher than the edge of the basketball hoop. The entire flight should be within 90 seconds.
Brief Tour – One of the five expected to start on April 11, or about 11 months, is short-lived through inter-plan travel measures. But agency officials said it would be a huge leap for Mars exploration. In the future, they said, autonomous drones such as ingenuity could go into the sky to explore valleys, ice caps and other terrain available to rovers. If human researchers should ever land on Mars, drones could act as scouts and aerial sensors.
“We hope that ingenuity will allow us to expand and open up air mobility on Mars,” said Bob Balaram, chief engineer of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory project in Southern California.
The flight of ingenuity, as part of a comprehensive mission to get signs of past life on the red planet, is the latest in a flurry of significant Mars moments this year.