NASA will attempt a great first on Mars in early April: the flight of a helicopter

For now, this ultralight helicopter, which actually looks more like a large drone, is still folded up and strapped under the Perseverance rover, which landed on the Red Planet last month.

“Our best guess at the moment is April 8,” said Bob Balaram, chief engineer of Ingenuity, at a press conference of the date of what will be the Mars equivalent of the first. flight of an aircraft on Earth, carried out by the Wright brothers in 1903.

The exact day could still change, however, he said.

If the experiment is successful, it will be a real feat because the Martian air has a density equivalent to only 1% of that of the Earth’s atmosphere.

The first flight is expected to be very simple: after taking off vertically, the helicopter will rise to an altitude of three meters, hover there for 30 seconds, then rotate on itself. before resting on the ground. It will receive its instructions from Earth a few hours before, but will analyze its position relative to the ground during the flight itself, taking 30 photos per second.

Composed of four feet, a body and two superimposed propellers, Ingenuity weighs only 1.8 kg and measures 1.2 m from one blade end to the other.

The program for this helicopter cost NASA around $ 85 million. In the future, such devices could prove to be crucial for the exploration of planets, being able to go where rovers cannot go, for example over canyons.

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