The Mars helicopter Ingenuity has unlocked its two rotor blades as preparations continue for the vehicle’s maiden flight, which will take place no earlier than Sunday (April 11).
Ingenuity arrived on Mars on Feb. 18 along with NASAs Perseveranceafter making the long trek to the Red Planet, hidden in the robber’s belly. Starting April 4, the small helicopter has said goodbye to Perseverance and is preparing to take to the skies in a month-long test campaign. If Ingenuity’s Sunday sortie is successful, it will be the first powered, guided flee to another planet
“The blades of glory, also known as the rotor blades of the #MarsHelicopter, are unlocked and ready for testing,” said NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California wrote in a tweet posted early today (April 8). ‘Then we do a slow spin-up of the blades on the surface of Mars for the first time.’
Related: These selfies of NASA’s Mars helicopter and the Perseverance rover are just amazing
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Ingenuity’s flight prep process has been slow and careful, in part because of the 4-lb. (1.8 kilograms) helicopter made the journey to Mars in a folded configuration, hidden behind a protective shield.
After the robber dropped that shield and drove to the airport, the helicopter staff had to order the device unpack and slowly unfoldPerseverance then had to place Ingenuity directly on the surface of Mars and drive away so that the helicopter’s solar panels could start supporting the plane.
Unlocking and testing Ingenuity’s blades mark the last major milestones before the helicopter tries to fly. NASA officials have said they will test the blades first at 50 and then at 2,400 revolutions per minute before the helicopter tries to fly.
Meanwhile, while Ingenuity prepares for flight, Perseverance surveys the landscape and continues to settle on the Red Planet. Among other activities, the car-sized rover has taken photos of its own tire tracks and its advanced scientific arm.
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