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NASA Plans to Make a Show of the First-Ever Helicopter Flight on Mars

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The first major experiment to be conducted after the Perseverance rover landed on Mars is just around the corner, and it has nothing to do with the rover itself. Starting April 11, the flight window for the Ingenuity helicopter opens, and the American space agency plans to make a spectacle of the whole thing.

There’s no exact date and time set for when the helicopter will take off at the time of writing. NASA has a Livestream scheduled to begin around 3:30 a.m. EDT Monday, April 12, after the event loosely planned to take place one day before, but depending on a variety of factors, that may change—if it does, the agency will update that accordingly.

The entire might of the NASA social media platforms is thrown into the fight, with the above Live stream scheduled to air on NASA Television, the NASA app, the agency’s website, and the JPL YouTube and Facebook channels.

But before we get to that point, we’ll have a preflight briefing at 1 p.m. EDT (10 a.m. PDT) on April 9, one that is open to questions coming from the public.

For an entire month, Ingenuity will overshadow everything else the Perseverance will be doing on Mars. Flying a helicopter-type machine on an alien world has never been attempted before, and if successful, such a development could spawn an entirely new breed of space explorers.

The small and light machine will spin its blades in an attempt to get airborne and rise to a height of 10 feet (3 meters). It is scheduled to hover in the air for at least 30 seconds and prove that helicopter flight in a less dense atmosphere and weaker gravity is viable.

The location of the flight is a small patch of real estate somewhere in the Jezero Crater, where the Perseverance landed back in February.