NASA's Mars helicopter, Ingenuity, could change space exploration forever - CNET
Apr 07, 2021 1 min, 30 secs

Ingenuity takes flight on Mars in this NASA animation.

That's exactly what NASA has done with Ingenuity, a tiny, lightweight rotorcraft scheduled to take flight on Mars on April 11.

There are significant challenges to flying on Mars, however, and Ingenuity has to contend with a planet that particularly enjoys killing spacecraft.

If you're wondering how NASA got a helicopter to Mars and feel like you haven't heard too much about it, it's probably because NASA's Perseverance rover stole all the limelight.

Ingenuity was tucked away in the belly of Perseverance during the rover's long sojourn from Earth to Mars, which kicked off in July.

The rover landed on the planet back in February, and Ingenuity was safe and sound from the harsh, cold Martian surface until April 4, when Perseverance carefully deposited the chopper onto the soil.

When Ingenuity takes its first flight, it will be Perseverance that relays those messages back to Earth.

On April 6, Ingenuity took its first photograph of Mars, a low-resolution, orange-and-brown snapshot of the surface.

Ingenuity is designed to deal with this problem.

The Ingenuity team had to upload instructions to the craft well in advance and will then receive data back after it's made its flight.

Ingenuity is designed to be very autonomous and to keep itself healthy during the communications delay between the two planets.

18, the Ingenuity team was looking for an "airfield" and surrounding "flight zone" -- a flat, mostly empty area on Mars' surface that won't jeopardize the safety of Ingenuity.

As NASA engineers have reiterated many times: Ingenuity is a "technology demonstration," just like the very first Mars rover, Sojourner, which rolled across the planet in 1997. 

In many ways, Ingenuity has already succeeded: It survived the journey to Mars, set itself up on the planet and survived its first night alone in the cold

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