NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter is on the cusp of its historic first flight. The agency has confirmed that its Perseverance rover deployed the UAV on Mars after a final four-inch drop to the Red Planet’s soil on April 3rd. The only challenge now is to make it to the flight itself, which could take place as soon as April 11th and provide data the next day. Ingenuity needs the extra time to charge its battery using solar cells.
The first ‘trip’ will be a brief 30-second hover at 10 feet to prove the helicopter’s airworthiness. NASA is planning as many as four more flights over the course of a 30-day period, with durations of up to 90 seconds and a distance of up to 160 feet from the rover. Ingenuity is meant to prove that flight is possible in Mars’ extremely low-density atmosphere, reduced gravity and extreme temperatures — it’s paving the way for flight-based exploration in future missions.