“Ingenuity” (in German: ingenuity) could start on April 8th at the earliest, announced the US space agency Nasa at a press conference on Tuesday, March 23rd. It would be the first flight of an aircraft over another planet.
“This first flight is about very special, it is by far the most important flight we will do,” said NASA engineer Håvard Grip. “The helicopter should take off and then climb to a height of about three meters, there it should fly on the spot for about thirty seconds, turn, and then come down again and land.”
After the Perseverance rover landed on Mars, the 1.8 kilogram mini-helicopter had already sent an initial status report to the control center in Pasadena, California, indicating that it was in good condition.
“Perseverance” is currently taking the helicopter to its flat, ten by ten meter area, selected by NASA scientists, near the landing site, where it then has to be set up for take-off.
Flight tests under harsh conditions
The “Ingenuity” powered by lithium-ion batteries could then start several flight attempts for around a month. The helicopter has to withstand extreme conditions: On Mars it is cold down to minus 90 degrees Celsius at night, the gravitational pull of the planet is also lower and the atmosphere is much thinner.
The “Perseverance” rover, weighing around 1,000 kilograms and the size of a small car, was set up in a risky maneuver in a dry lake called “Jezero Crater1” at the end of February – after 203 days of flight and 472 million kilometers traveled. Perseverance is to investigate this lake with a diameter of around 45 kilometers over the next two years.
The development and construction of the roughly 2.5 billion dollar rover took eight years. He is supposed to search for traces of previous microbial life on Mars and to research the climate and geology of the planet.