The small helicopter aboard NASA Rover perseverance got his first glimpse of the Red Planet.
The 4-lb. (1.8 kilograms) chopper, technology demonstration named Ingenuity, he traveled to Mars connected to the Perseverance belly. Over the weekend, Perseverance dropped the debris shield defending Ingenuity during the Feb. 18 adventure on the floor of Jezero Crater.
The move will help pave the way for Ingenuity flights, which could happen as early as the first week of April.
“The debris shield goes away, and this is our first look at the helicopter. It’s pushed on all sides, folded up and locked in place, so there’s a little rear origami to do before you can. First though, I’ll be off to the ‘named helipad’, a day or two trip from here, “NASA officials wrote Sunday (March 21) via the rover’s official Twitter account.
Related: Ingenuity explained NASA’s Mars helicopter
We’ll learn more about that helipad, and the rest of Ingenuity’s flight plan, at NASA’s press conference tomorrow (March 23) at 1:30 pm EDT (1730 GMT). You can watch the event stay here at Space.com, with permission from NASA, or directly through the space agency.
Rotorcraft has never flown on a world beyond Earth. NASA hopes that Ingenuity will change that, and in a big way: Successful types with the bantam helicopter could open Mars to a wide-ranging aerial survey in the future, NASA officials have said.
After the few trips to Ingenuity are complete, perseverance will begin to focus on its main tasks: hunting for ancient signs Life of Mars and collecting symbols for future returns to Earth. The Jezero, which is 28 miles wide (45 kilometers) is a great place to do such work, members of the mission team have said. Observations from Mars orbiters show that the crater formed a large, deep lake and river delta billions of years ago.
Innovation is one of two technology demonstrations on board Sustainability. The other, an instrument called MOXIE (“In-Situ Mars Oxygen Utilization Utilization Test”), is designed to generate oxygen from the thin Martian atmosphere, controlled by carbon dioxide. Scattered versions of MOXIE could one day help humanity set up shop on the Red Planet, NASA officials have said.
Mike Wall is an author »Out there“(Grand Central Publishing, 2018; photos by Karl Tate), a book about finding alien life. Follow us on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.