Science

Mars is getting a helicopter

Here's what you need to know.

NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter will be the first aircraft to attempt a controlled flight on another world.

The 4-pound craft will ride along with NASA’s Perseverance rover as it launches to Mars in July 2020.

Ingenuity carries navigation sensors, cameras, and a wireless communications system.

With its lightweight body and long blades that spin at 2400 rpms, Ingenuity was built for Mars’s atmosphere, which is 99% less dense than Earth’s.

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It'll also have to survive Mars's nighttime temperatures, which can drop down to minus 130 degrees Fahrenheit.

Ingenuity's first test flight is scheduled for spring 2021.

It could fly as high as 15 feet and as far as 160 feet away from the rover.

Engineers on Earth will try for a maximum flight length of 90 seconds.

If Ingenuity doesn’t deploy or is unable to fly, there will be no risk to the Mars2020 mission as a whole — the helicopter is a technology demonstration and doesn’t affect the science.

But if Ingenuity succeeds, it could open the door to future aircraft possibilities for human exploration on Mars.

Check out more stories about space and Mars exploration here.

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