NASA has traced the origins of the Ingenuity Mars helicopter back to the first time the Wright brothers Orville and Wilbur took at Kitty Hawk all the way back in 1903. A small piece of fabric from the Wright Brothers’ craft is now on the Red Planet – tucked under the solar panel for Ingenuity.
Ingenuity chief engineer Bob Balaram revealed that the fabric piece – described as being the size of a postage stamp – was taken to Mars during a Tuesday briefing. The material, taken from a wing covering, shows the connection between the first controlled flight on Earth and what could become the first controlled flight on another planet with Ingenuity.
Ingenuity could take-off as early as April 8, but it must first be taken to the Mars airfield by the Perseverance rover. The helicopter will also undergo several checks before attempting to take off and hover around 10 feet in the Martian air.
Perseverance is slowly but surely traveling to the helicopter and is a few days away. Once Ingenuity unfolds and settles on the ground, Perseverance will move out so that the solar panel has enough space to charge the battery.
The mission is scheduled to last 31 of our earth days, but NASA says the first night will be the most critical. While getting deployed to the surface will be a big challenge, surviving that first night on Mars alone, without the rover protecting it and keeping it powered, will be an even bigger one,” said Balaram.
The rover will head to an overlook site to capture photos and videos of the Ingenuity’s first flight. If this initial hovering goes as expected, then NASA will attempt to fly the craft higher and further.
The flight zone covers a total area of around 90 meters or 300 feet, giving Ingenuity enough space to fly if needed.
The ingenious little Ingenuity comes in at around 4 pounds (1.8 kilograms) and is an experiment that will hopefully show such flight is possible on Mars. Mars has a thin atmosphere with heavy winds that make the flight a challenge. If everything goes smoothly with Ingenuity, it could be the start of a new world of interstellar exploration.