In a harsh crater on the surface of Mars, days after a small helicopter with a smartphone brain attempted the first powered flight on another world. NASA hopes its giant robotic propeller, called Ingenuity, will demonstrate that powered flight is possible in extremely thin Mars air and help usher in a new era of planetary exploration in which drones play a vital role.
Creativity has reached Mars like a stowaway, folded on the underside of NASA’s Persevering Rover. That landed on the red planet in February After a seven-month journey, 293 million miles from Earth. For its first flight, the $ 85 million 4-pound vehicle would simply soar about 10 feet above the roof and hover – no higher than the edge of the basketball hoop – before returning to the surface. The entire journey should be completed within 90 seconds.
The short voyage – one of five planned one-month trips expected to begin on or around April 11th – is a short jump by metrics of interplanetary travel. But agency officials said it would be a huge leap to explore Mars. In the future, they said, unmanned drones such as Ingenuity could take off into the sky to explore canyons, ice caps and other terrain that is inaccessible to rovers. If human explorers land on Mars, drones could act as scouts and aerial sensors.
“Hopefully, creativity will allow us to expand and open up aerial mobility on Mars,” said Bob Ballaram, chief project engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California.
The creativity journey, part of a wider mission for Look for signs of past life on the red planet, Is the latest in a wave of notable Mars moments this year.