The Sunday Post (Inverness)

Helicopter to fly on Mars for first time

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A tiny helicopter built by Nasa is ready to fly on Mars as part of the US space agency’s first attempt at a powered, controlled flight on another world.

The Ingenuity helicopter is expected to take to the Martian skies today, although the exact time is yet to be confirmed.

The small helicopter is part of a technology demonstrat­ion – a project that aims to test a new capability for the first time.

Ingenuity arrived at the Jezero Crater on February 18 after an eight-month journey spanning nearly 300 million miles, tucked inside the belly of Nasa’s Perseveran­ce Rover.

After the spacecraft landed, it dropped the drone on to the ground so Ingenuity could prepare for its maiden flight.

About 50cm tall, the helicopter weighs 1.8kg on Earth but is a mere 0.68kg on Mars because of the planet’s lower gravity. The Martian atmosphere is also about 100 times thinner than Earth’s.

Bob Balaram, Mars helicopter chief engineer, said: “Every step we have taken since this journey began six years ago has been uncharted territory in the history of aircraft.

“And while getting deployed to the surface will be a big challenge, surviving that first night on Mars alone will be an even bigger one.”

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