NASA prepares to fly a helicopter on Mars for the first time

    This is the Ingenuity mission, which, after several years of tests and technological developments, will allow it to fly over the surface of the planet Mars at a maximum height of 5 meters.

    Engineers from the United States Space Agency, NASA, are finalizing the details to carry out, for the first time in history, the flight of a helicopter on another planet.

    “These days we have been deploying the systems and doing the necessary tests to make sure that everything is going to work out well. It will be very simple: it will fly between 3 and 5 meters, but it will also help us to verify that we can fly on Mars ”, explained Elio Morillo, NASA systems engineer, in an interview with the Voice of America.

    The Ingenuity helicopter, which was baptized with this name due to the “genius” of the project and because it uses a technology never seen before, is part of the Perseverance mission that left in July for the red planet with the aim of analyzing and finding remains of life in that place.

    “The helicopter was installed on the underside of the Perseverance robot, inside a shell. In the last weeks we dropped that shell on a sufficiently flat surface of Mars and we deployed it ”, he detailed about the processes.

    This test flight is scheduled to take place on Sunday, April 11, 2021. This mission is especially relevant because it could mark a before and after in the development of the next missions in space.

    “The aspect of this flight on Mars will allow us in the future to send a more complex helicopter or even a series of helicopters that can do science, with tools and instruments, to do local analysis,” said Morillo.

    “At the same time when astronauts arrive on the red planet, (those helicopters) can accompany them to take images and help them understand what is around them,” he added.

    The test flight will also serve to “look for those important samples” that can help scientists understand “whether there was life on Mars at some point or not.”

    Morillo, a native of Puerto Rico and with a degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Michigan and a master’s degree in space systems engineering, assures that “there are all the ingredients (to understand) that at some point microbial life has existed on the planet”, but he acknowledges that much more thorough research is needed on this.

    “We have to confirm it. There are hypotheses that yes, it may exist. We have the necessary instruments to see if there really is some kind of trace of microbial life and with the more complex system that we have sent to Mars, samples are going to be collected and stored for a mission within the next decade to collect and return them to Earth to make more conclusive tests ”, he concluded.

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