NASA has announced plans for a small Mars Innovation helicopter that arrived on the Red Planet with the Perseverance craft. According to the space agency, it plans to operate and deploy the helicopter for the first time sometime after April 8, 2021, the first attempt to operate a plane on another planet.
The Mars Creativity helicopter weighs only 4 pounds; It is currently connected to the belly of the persistent rover as it made a trip to Mars. The rover dropped the wreckage shield that protected creativity over the weekend and is now heading to the designated “airport” where Ingenuity will make its maiden flight.
NASA has previously confirmed that creativity is an experiment and that controlled flight will likely not succeed in a helicopter. The space agency notes that operating the helicopter on Mars would be much more difficult than operating it on Earth, partly due to differences in the atmosphere, temperature, and available sunlight.
The NASA team designed the innovation to be small, lightweight, and able to keep its delicate components warm in cold temperatures. The aircraft has been tested multiple times using simulated conditions in the JPL – though, NASA saysThe team is worried about the next attempt.
Farah Ali Bey, NASA’s Mars Helicopter Integration Leader, explained:
As with everything helicopter-related, this kind of deployment has never been done before. Once we start spreading, there is no turning back. All activities are closely coordinated, irreversible and mutually dependent. If there is a hint that something is not going as expected, we may decide to postpone for a day or more until we have a better idea of what is happening.