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NASA's Ingenuity helicopter gets set to explore Mars

In the coming days, NASA's Perseverance rover will watch the historic first flight on the red planet.

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James Martin

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NASA ingenuity helicopter flight
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In the coming days, NASA's Ingenuity helicopter will make a historic attempt at the first powered, controlled flight on another planet. The space agency is targeting no earlier than Wednesday, April 14, for this first flight attempt.

Here, the Ingenuity helicopter can be seen on Mars as viewed by the Perseverance rover's rear hazard camera on April 4, 2021.

NASA's Mars Perseverance rover acquired this image using its onboard Right Navigation Camera
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Prior to its deployment, Ingenuity was tucked inside the Perseverance rover. That allowed the helicopter to charge its battery and heat itself using the power of the rover, which kept the interior at about 45 degrees Fahrenheit through the cold Martian nights, when temperatures can drop to as low as minus 130 F.

NASA Ingenuity helicopter flight
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NASA says the flight date may shift as engineers make adjustments and go through the preflight checks to ensure everything is operating as expected. 

See the first Mars color photo recently snapped by Ingenuity.

Timing for events and the latest schedule will be available on the helicopter's Watch Online webpage:

https://mars.nasa.gov/technology/helicopter/#Watch-Online

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In this animation, Ingenuity swings down, with two of its four legs extended, from the belly of the Perseverance rover on March 28, 2021.

NASA Ingenuity helicopter flight
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The Ingenuity helicopter is seen here underneath the Perseverance rover, with its four legs extended.

Ingenuity helicopter
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Here, the Ingenuity helicopter is seen in a closeup taken by the rover's Mastcam-Z pair of cameras. 

NASA Ingenuity helicopter flight
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We're not going to be drone-racing around Mars on day one. Initially, the plan is for the helicopter to start off slow, taking off and hovering just a few feet from the ground for about 20 to 30 seconds before landing. 

NASA Ingenuity helicopter flight
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But that first flight will be a major milestone. It will be the very first powered flight in the extremely thin atmosphere of Mars.

NASA's Mars Perseverance rover acquired this image of the area in back of it using its onboard Rear Right Hazard Avoidance Camera.
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If this first effort at flight is a success, the Ingenuity helicopter will then attempt increasingly challenging flights of farther distances and greater altitudes.

Perseverance  rover with its Mars companion, the Ingenuity helicopter
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The Perseverance rover has been busy snapping pictures of itself (including this charming look at its "face"), but now we have the complete view. NASA on Wednesday released a glorious, full-body selfie showing the rover with its Mars companion, the Ingenuity helicopter.

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