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World’s First Helicopter to Travel to Space Powers Up En Route to Mars

It’s been about two weeks since the most ambitious human mission to another planet begun. A spaceship is currently en route carrying the Perseverance rover with it, our hopes of confirming the existence of alien life, and a quirky-looking helicopter.
NASA Ingenuity Mars helicopter 10 photos
That’s right, a helicopter. Aside from trying to find traces of ancient life and generating oxygen, the Perseverance rover is also the platform from where an insect-like machine is going to take off in a bid to prove powered-machines could fly even in an environment that has one percent the density of Earth’s atmosphere.

The tiny machine weighs 4 pounds (1.8 kg), has a fuselage about the size of a softball and is powered by twin-, counter-rotating blades that will spin at 3,000 rpm. It is made mostly of carbon fiber to keep things as light as possible, and looks more like those cheap AliExpress drones than a helicopter.

Called Ingenuity, it is powered by six lithium-ion batteries, which were checked-out and recharged to 35 percent during an eight-hour-long test on August 7. Keep in mind that on August 7 the helicopter was already one week into the mission, which pretty much means it was powered-up in space.

Needless to say, this is the first time such a thing happened, and if you’re wondering how the hell did NASA manage to charge batteries in space, you should know they got their juice from the rover’s power supply.

"This was a big milestone, as it was our first opportunity to turn on Ingenuity and give its electronics a 'test drive' since we launched on July 30," said in a statement Tim Canham, the operations lead for Mars Helicopter at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California.

"Since everything went by the book, we'll perform the same activity about every two weeks to maintain an acceptable state of charge."

The mission to Mars (rover, helicopter and all) is expected to land in the Jezero Crater in February 2021.

 
 
 
 
 

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