Nasa's Perseverance rover begins deploying Ingenuity helicopter on Mars

The rover has begun the process of lowering the helicopter onto the surface ahead of the first test of powered flight on the planet.

Nasa’s Perseverance rover has started to deploy a helicopter to be used as part of the first test of powered flight on Mars.

The Ingenuity helicopter rode to Mars attached to the belly of the Perseverance rover and is now being lowered onto the planet’s surface.

The deployment is expected to take around six days to complete, with the Nasa team releasing the craft in several steps to get it safely onto the surface now that a suitable test location has been found.

The first flight test is currently expected to take place on April 8.

Once released, Ingenuity is set to carry out a series of test flights over a 30-Martian-day period, with the distance travelled and altitude gained incrementally increased, with the helicopter operating autonomously.

According to the Nasa Jet Propulsion Laboratory, this will be up to four more flights of up to 90 seconds.

(PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics)

The first test will see the helicopter take off a few feet from the ground, hover in the air for about 20 to 30 seconds and then land – a major milestone according to Nasa as it will be the first powered flight in the thin atmosphere of Mars.

The helicopter weighs about 1.8 kilograms and has been designed to be able to fly distances of up to 300 metres at a time at between three and five metres from the ground.

Once the test flights are completed, Perseverance will continue on with its scientific mission to identify, collect and preserve rock samples from the planet’s surface to be collected and returned to Earth by a future mission.

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