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NASA's daring Mars helicopter gets a fitting name, thanks to a teen

The NASA Perseverance rover will carry an actual (small) helicopter to Mars.

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The NASA Mars helicopter team attaches a piece to the flight model in early 2019.

NASA/JPL-Caltech

The NASA Perseverance rover won't be the only machine going boldly to Mars when it launches mid-year. It will carry the newly named Ingenuity Mars helicopter along with it.

The space agency announced the name choice on Wednesday. "Our Mars helicopter will attempt the first powered flight on another world. I'm proud to name it Ingenuity," NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine tweeted.

NASA chose Ingenuity from among the entries for the Name the Rover essay contest that gave Perseverance its moniker. Alabama high school student Vaneeza Rupani wrote the submission, saying, "The ingenuity and brilliance of people working hard to overcome the challenges of interplanetary travel are what allow us all to experience the wonders of space exploration."

The helicopter is considered a high-risk, high-reward technology demonstration. It sits in the rover's belly and will ride around with Perseverance on Mars for a few months before deployment. NASA hopes Ingenuity will prove that powered flight can be achieved on Mars.

"Along with investigating difficult-to-reach targets, such as cliffs, caves and deep craters, future aircraft could carry small science instruments or act as scouts for human and robotic explorers on Mars or other celestial bodies," said NASA.

Perseverance is scheduled to head to Mars in July or August this year. If all goes smoothly, it will arrive in February 2021, and we will be one step closer to flight on another planet.

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