CBS News – July 28, 2020
With eight successful Mars landings, NASA is upping the ante with the spacecraft Perseverance. Set for liftoff this week, the newest rover is taking a helicopter along for an otherworldly test flight.
The 4-pound helicopter, Ingenuity, will travel to Mars clutching the rover’s belly and, a few months after touchdown, attempt to fly solo. Once dropping onto the Martian surface, Ingenuity will start out like a baby bird, rising 10 feet into the planet’s extremely thin atmosphere and flying forward up to 6 feet. With each attempt, it will try to go a little higher and farther.
“It really is like the Wright brothers’ moment,” said project manager MiMi Aung. She has one month to squeeze in as many helicopter hops as possible before the rover moves on to more pressing geologic work. The future could see next-generation helicopters scouting out distant Martian territory for astronauts or even robots.
Perseverance sports the latest landing tech, plus the most cameras and microphones ever assembled to capture the sights and sounds of Mars. Its super-sanitized sample return tubes – for rocks that could hold evidence of past Martian life — are the cleanest items ever bound for space.
This summer’s third and final mission to Mars — after the United Arab Emirates’ Hope orbiter and China’s Quest for Heavenly Truth orbiter-rover combo — begins with a launch scheduled for Thursday morning from Cape Canaveral. Like the other spacecraft, Perseverance should reach the red planet next February following a journey spanning seven months and more than 300 million miles.
Here’s a peek at Perseverance: