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NASA to fly first helicopter on Mars in early April

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NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Rover will attempt to make the first controlled landing flight of an aircraft on another planet in April.

The space agency’s 4-pound (1.8-kilogram) helicopter will attempt to rise 10 feet (3 meters) into the extremely thin Martian air on its first hop on April 8.

Up to five increasingly higher and longer flights are planned over the course of a month.

Farah Alibay, Mars Helicopter integration lead for the Perseverance rover told Sky News that once they start the deployment there is “no going back”.

An illustration of the landing

/ NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS/AFP via Ge

“As with everything with the helicopter, this type of deployment has never been done before”, she said.

“Once we start the deployment there is no turning back. All activities are closely coordinated, irreversible, and dependent on each other.

“If there is even a hint that something isn’t going as expected, we may decide to hold off for a sol or more until we have a better idea of what is going on.”

A sol is a Martian day, it is approximately 40 minutes longer than a day on earth.

A full scale model of the aircraft

/ AP

On Sunday the rover removed the shield protecting the helicopter. It is now in transit to a airfield area where it will attempt its first launch.

The helicopter airfield is right next to the rover’s landing site in Jezero Crater.

Rock samples will be set aside for eventual return to Earth.

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