A NASA helicopter brought a piece of the Wright brothers ’plane to Mars

The ingenuity helicopter is located exposed under the belly of the Perseverance rover on Mars.

NASA / JPL-Caltech

NASA has found the lineage of its innovative The genius of the Martian helicopter all the way to Orville and Wilbur Wright’s historic first flight to Kitty Hawk in 1903. A tiny piece of fabric from the famous Wright plane now resides on the red planet, tucked under Ingenuity’s solar panel.

At a NASA briefing on Tuesday, Chief ingenious engineer Bob Balaram discovered a surprise package that he described as the size of a postage stamp. The unbleached muslin material, which comes from the wing cover, creates a link between the first, controlled flight on Earth and what NASA hopes will be the first, controlled flight on another planet.

Ingenuity could take off as early as April 8, but first the Rover Perseverance must deliver it to its Martian airport spot. It will also undergo an extensive series of checks before attempting to take off and hover about 3 meters above the planet’s surface.

The Rover Perseverance is a few days away from the departure point of the helicopter, a relatively flat and clean area in the crater of the Lake. Once Ingenuity is revealed and landing on the ground, the rover will move away carefully to make sure the rotorcraft’s solar panel can run on its batteries and keep it warm on a cold night.

The rotorcraft mission is planned to last 31 Earth days, but the first night is perhaps the most critical. “Although deployment to the surface will be a great challenge, it will survive that first night only on Mars, without the rover protecting it and moving it, it will be even bigger,” Balaram said.

This annotated image of Mars shows Ingenuity Airport and the flight zone in Lake Crater.

NASA / JPL-Caltech / University of Arizona

Rover will set up shop at a cautious location to try to capture pictures and videos of Ingenuity’s short first flight.

If the initial hover exercise is good, NASA will try longer and longer flights. The entire flight zone covers an area about 90 meters long, which gives Ingeniosity enough space to stretch knives as needed.

The 4-kilogram (1.8-kilogram) helicopter is a technological demonstration, an experiment that could show whether this type of flight is even possible in the tangled conditions of Mars. The thin atmosphere and turbulent winds make the planet a challenging place to work. If he succeeds, he could open the door to new forms of research in other worlds.

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