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Ingenuity Helicopter to Take Flight in April

Ingenuity Helicopter to Take Flight in April

3-minute read
Ingenuity Helicopter to Take Flight in April

The Mars Ingenuity Helicopter will take its first steps toward demonstrating powered flight in the Martian atmosphere, with a first attempt at a powered, controlled flight of an aircraft on another planet scheduled for no earlier than April 8, 2021. The helicopter rode to Mars in the Perseverance Rover's belly pan and will be deployed for flight testing from the red planet's surface in April.

The tiny helicopter weighs just 4 pounds but contains complex hardware, including carbon fiber blades, solar arrays and two cameras. Additionally, the helicopter will fly a piece of history: A small amount of the muslin material (measuring 1 centimeter by 1 centimeter by 0.05 centimeter) that once covered the wings of the Wright Brothers’ aircraft is aboard, stowed below one of the solar panels.

As part of the Perseverance mission, Ingenuity met Planetary Protection requirements that mandate no more than 300 spores per square meter on its hardware. Assembly included building the hardware in clean facilities and cleanrooms with appropriate gowning, hardware controls and procedures to prevent recontamination. Routine biological sampling was conducted to verify that biological cleanliness was maintained up to the final prelaunch stow inside Perseverance’s belly pan. Even the muslin fabric from the Wright brothers’ Flyer 1was sterilized by an autoclave process to ensure that it met Planetary Protection requirements. 

For more information on Ingenuity’s historic science demonstration, including deployment and flight tests, please see the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter Landing Press Kit and the Mars Helicopter Tech Demo page.

Mars Helicpter Flight Model 

This image of NASA's Mars Helicopter's flight model was taken on Feb. 14, 2019, in a cleanroom at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. The aluminum base plate, side posts and crossbeam around the helicopter protect the helicopter's landing legs and the attachment points that will hold it to the belly of the Mars 2020 rover.

Perserverance and Mars Helicopter 

In this photo, taken on Oct. 1, 2019, the Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover and the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter (between left and center rover wheels) have just completed a multiweek evaluation under Mars-like conditions inside a 25-foot wide, 85-foot tall (8-meter by 26-meter) vacuum chamber at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. It marks the first time that Ingenuity was deployed in a flight-like manner from Perseverance’s belly, utilizing all the actuators (motors) and pyrotechnics required to release the rotorcraft from the rover's belly and place it safely on the surface of Mars.

Wright Brothers 

Orville Wright makes the first powered, controlled flight on Earth as his brother Wilbur looks on in this image taken at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, on Dec. 17, 1903. Orville Wright covered 120 feet in 12 seconds during the first flight. The Wright brothers made four flights that day, each longer than the last. A small amount of the material covering the aircraft’s wing during the first flight flew to Mars aboard NASA's Ingenuity Mars Helicopter. The small swath of fabric was wrapped with an insulative tape around a cable located underneath the helicopter's solar panel. Ingenuity is scheduled to attempt the first powered, controlled flight on another planet in April 2021. The Wrights had been using the same type of material — an unbleached muslin called "Pride of the West" — to cover their glider and aircraft wings since 1901. A different piece of the material, along with a splinter of wood from the Wright Brothers' Flyer 1, was flown to the Moon and back aboard Apollo 11. The image was taken by John Daniels, a member of the U.S. Life-Saving Station in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina. Until the day of the flight, Daniels had never seen a camera.

Mars Helicopter and Team 

Members from NASA's Mars Helicopter and Mars 2020 teams stand behind the Mars Helicopter. The image was taken on July 30, 2019, in the Spacecraft Assembly Facility's High Bay 1 at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.