The US space agency reported, NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter could make its first flight over the Red Planet as soon as Monday, following a delay of more than a week due to a possible technical issue.
The mini helicopter’s trip will be regarded as the first-ever powered, controlled flight on another planet, and will help NASA to collect priceless data about the conditions on Mars.
“NASA is targeting no earlier than Monday, April 19, for the first flight of its Ingenuity Mars Helicopter,” the space agency reported Saturday.
Data will return to Earth “a few hours following the autonomous flight,” which would take off at nearly 3:30 am (0730 GMT), NASA said.
Ingenuity’s first trip was originally set for last Sunday, but was delayed after a potential issue developed during a high-speed test of the four-pound (1.8 kilogram) helicopter’s rotors.
NASA calls the unique helicopter operation highly risky: “The flight is a challenge because the air on Mars is so thin — less than one per cent of the pressure of Earth’s atmosphere.”
The helicopter landed on Mars attached to the underside of the Perseverance rover, which touched down on February 18.
After the helicopter’s flight, Ingenuity will send Perseverance technical data on what it has done, and that information will be sent back to Earth.
The helicopter mission is to be the equivalent on Mars of the first powered flight on Earth — by the Wright brothers in 1903 in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. A piece of fabric from that plane has been tucked inside Ingenuity in honour of that effort.