When NASA's Perseverance rover landed on Mars late last week it arrived with precious cargo including a drone that is set to be the first to fly on another planet.
The Ingenuity Mars helicopter is now awake and communicating with controllers on Earth at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The team got a downlink at 6:30 p.m. EST Friday via the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The helicopter and its base station are both functioning.
Here are four things you should know about Ingenuity:
Ingenuity Is Dependent On Perseverance Rover
After choosing the best location to deploy Ingenuity, Perseverance's helicopter delivery system will release the landing cover, rotate the helicopter to a leg-down configuration and softly lower it to the Mars surface within a few months. The rover will help with correspondence and flight tests.
Ingenuity Is The First Powered, Controlled Flight On Another Planet
Ingenuity will attempt to be the first powered, controlled flight on another planet - a tough challenge. The Martian atmosphere is 99% less dense than that on Earth making it extremely difficult for the vehicle to get lift. But one of the first goals is to survive the frigid Martian night. Nights on Mars are as cold as minus 80 Fahrenheit
Ingenuity Is An Experimental Flight Test
Ingenuity is looking to test its capabilities over limited ranges to start with. It does not carry scientific equipment and is a side-kick for the Mars 2020 Perseverance Mission. Its goal is to illustrate rotorcraft flight in the incredibly thin atmosphere of Mars.
Ingenuity Might Provide A New Aerial Dimension
Engineers on the Ingenuity team were able to prove flight in special space simulation chambers. They proved that it was possible to create a spacecraft that could produce enough lift on Mars and function and survive autonomously. Successful Ingenuity flights could add an ambitious aerial dimension to future Mars exploration.
Flying drones on Mars might scout ahead of rovers to prepare the best routes, or hover over hazardous terrain to conduct scientific studies, among other applications.