NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s (JPL) Ingenuity Mars helicopter is readying for a historic mission.
NASA PREVIEWS FIRST MARS HELICOPTER FLIGHTS: EVERY STEP TAKEN IS ‘UNCHARTED TERRITORY’
On Monday, JPL released images of the vehicle as it began to carefully unfurl from inside of the Perseverance Mars 2020 rover that landed on the red planet in February.
“Swing low, sweet helicopter…@NASAPersevere is slowly and carefully deploying the #MarsHelicopter, Ingenuity,” the team tweeted. “The tech demo is currently unfolding from its stowed position and readying to safely touch down on the Martian surface.”
On Tuesday, JPL said they were in the “home stretch” as Ingenuity began its descent.
“We’re in the home stretch. The #MarsHelicopter has lowered all four legs and is in position to touch down on the Martian surface,” they wrote. “Once it’s fully ready, @NASAPersevere will release it gently to the surface.”
Last week, NASA announced that JPL would be targeting no earlier than April 8 for the first-ever attempt at power and controlled flight of an aircraft on another planet.
Setting the helicopter loose on the ground at its carefully selected flight zone ‒ just north of Perseverance’s landing site in Jezero Crater ‒ is just one of the many steps to reach this unprecedented milestone.
In a news conference, the Ingenuity team explained that after the Mars Helicopter Delivery System rotated and released the helicopter, Perseverance then has 25 hours to move away to a “rover observation location” and Ingenuity must survive the frigid Mars night on its own.
The autonomous 4-pound rotorcraft is charged by solar panels and has just a month-long window to complete up to five test flights.
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Perseverance will receive and relay flight instructions to the helicopter during the tests.