In the space race to the red planet, the Perseverance probe is already making history. For starters, it managed to make the first recording of a landing on Mars, surviving a journey of more than seven months in space and arriving with its systems intact, and not only that, it has allowed scientists to listen to the Martian wind and the noise produced by the rover's tools when analyzing the rocks. But now it is set to achieve an even greater milestone, deploying the first ground-controlled drone in the Martian sky.
Ingenuity drone illustration. Image credit: Wikipedia.com.
NASA has just unveiled the date scheduled for the start of the tests, it will be from April 8 that Ingenuity, a helicopter weighing 1.8 kg, will take to the skies of the red planet. At this moment the small helicopter rests attached to the Perseverance rover, which is already on its way to the site chosen by NASA to perform such a feat, it is an area of 10 by 10 meters from where Ingenuity will perform its work.
NASA has just unveiled the planned date for the start of the tests, on its website they inform that it will be from April 8 that Ingenuity, a helicopter weighing 1.8 kg, will take to the skies of the red planet. At this moment the small helicopter rests attached to the Perseverance rover, which is already on its way to the site chosen by NASA to perform such a feat, it is an area of 10 by 10 meters from where Ingenuity will perform its work.
There are some stressful days ahead for the whole team in charge of the maneuvers, as the helicopter deployment process will take about six Martian days, there are many activities that must be closely coordinated and irreversible, so once the deployment starts there is no turning back. On the first day the ground team will activate a device that will break the screws of a mechanism that holds the helicopter in place, the next day a cable cutting device will release a mechanical arm that will start to rotate Ingenuity from its position and at the same time the helicopter will start to extend two of its four legs, during the third day the helicopter will finish the vertical position and on the fourth day the other two landing legs will be extended.
The fifth Martian day will be destined to charge Ingenuity's batteries using Perseverance as a power source, from there on 25 more hours will be used to recharge the helicopter's batteries under the Martian sun, being ready to make its first flight.
And although it will be a challenge and a great experience, this first flight will be somewhat simple, it is planned to perform several environmental measurements with the analyzers on board the rover and if everything is correct Ingenuity will take off, turning on its rotors will ascend to a height of three meters where it will remain 30 seconds and then descend to land on Martian soil.
Illustration of the Perseverance rover next to the Ingenuity helicopter.
Several hours after Ingenuity's flight, Perseverance is expected to transmit the first images and videos of this historic first flight, allowing us to observe the first flight of our technology on another world.
Although NASA technicians say that making this flight and deploying the helicopter on Mars will be a challenge, Ingenuity surviving the first night without the rover's protection will be an even greater challenge, but that whatever happens, they will obtain a lot of information, since flying any aircraft on Mars will be nothing like what it is done on Earth.
There is no doubt that this phase of the Perseverance rover mission will be a demonstration of technology, and we will all be anxiously awaiting those first images of the first flight of a terrestrial aircraft on another world.
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