| 1 March 2024, Friday |

Flying a helicopter on Mars: Nasa’s Ingenuity aircraft will soon take flight

The Ingenuity helicopter sent to Mars aboard Nasa’s Perseverance rover is set to take its first flight in less than a month.

A flight zone was selected recently, where the two-kilogram rotor-powered machine will perform a series of test flights in the first week of April.

The Perseverance team at Nasa will reveal more details during a live media briefing on March 23.

The delicate helicopter shared a ride with the $2.5 billion Perseverance rover, resting in its chassis underneath a protective shield.

Since making an historic landing on the planet’s Jezero Crater on February 18, the rover has already been driving around  capturing rare images and shooting lasers to study rock structures.

It is the world’s most advanced Mars mission and involves breakthrough technology that aims to find signs of ancient life on the planet.

Once Ingenuity is deployed, it will be able to fly up to 300 metres away from the rover for environmental monitoring and to capture aerial shots.

It can fly three to five metres high for up to 90 seconds, but will climb only one to two metres for the test fligh

Ingenuity has four carbon-fibre blades arranged in two rotors that spin in opposite directions at 2,400 rotations per minute.

The high speed helps generate enough lift to be airborne in the thin Martian atmosphere.

It has six lithium-ion batteries that help power it and solar panels that help keep the batteries charged.

The rover will spend its time on Mars collecting samples, which scientists hope will be returned to Earth through a joint mission by Nasa and the European Space Agency.

Perseverance landed on the Octavia E Butler Landing site, named in honour of the award-winning American science fiction writer.

Scientists chose the Jezero Crater because it is believed the location once hosted an ancient lake, making it an ideal location for the hunt of clues to ancient life.