The first aircraft that will be able to conduct exploratory flights on other planets is ready to take off, NASA announced. “It’s something that has never been done before in the history of mankind and we are here and now,” said Jim Bridenstine, administrator of the space agency, during a press conference for the Mars 2020 mission last Wednesday (17).
The helicopter was officially named Ingenuity (or ingenuity, in Portuguese), sent by a student from Alabama, during a national contest to choose the name. Although not the central core of the mission that is to land on Martian soil, the flights will be good tests to find out whether NASA equipment can fly in another planet’s atmosphere.
The Mars 2020 mission is due to launch on July 20, from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, with a possible launch window until August 11. The trip will aim to look for previous signs of life, in addition to studying geology, the climate and collecting materials, to prepare Mars for a possible future human exploration from 2030.
Ready to fly
After six years of construction, Ingenuity is now attached to the bottom of Perseverance, a space vehicle that will be sent to Mars. The helicopter is ready to fly, but it should only take off after the mission arrives at the Red Planet, in February 2021. The mission should take a Martian year, the equivalent of 687 Earth days.
Right after landing, the Ingenuity must disconnect from the main vehicle to take its own flight. In the attempt to take off, the helicopter will be at least 50 meters away from Perseverance, which will monitor flight tests from 23 embedded cameras.
Chances of error
NASA knows that there is a high chance that something will go wrong. “Coming to Mars, safely leaving the vehicle, we will learn a lot,” said Matt Wallace, project manager for the Mars 2020 Mission. “We are not looking for an extensive and ambitious return from this technology, we are looking to learn the first things we need to learn. “, he comments.
It is not yet known whether the helicopter will be able to fly in the Martian atmosphere. But if this is possible, it will represent a major step forward for the exploration of other planets. Do you think Ingenuity will be able to fly on Mars?