Ingenuity Prepares for First Flight on Mars

On April 1, 2021, Ingenuity deployed all four of its legs prior to dropping from its compartment on board the Perseverance rover on Mars. NASA

One sol equals one solar day on Mars—and that’s about 24 hours, 39 minutes, and 35 seconds in Earth time. April 4 was officially “Sol 43” since NASA’s Perseverance rover landed on the fourth planet from the sun—and on that day, the drone rotorcraft Ingenuity separated from its mother ship, making the small leap to the surface of Mars where it prepares for a milestone in flight.

In the next few sols, the small craft will make history by being the first human-engineered aircraft to take flight on a planet besides Earth. It’s truly a “Wright Brothers Moment,” as tweeted by Mars Rover camera ops engineer Corrine Rojas—and one we’ll be watching for with great anticipation. You can follow the drone’s progress towards the highly anticipated flight here. On April 5, at 1 pm ET, the NASA team is streaming a live Q&A on the drone rotorcraft flight that you can access on YouTube.

The Perseverance program, launched in 2020, builds on previous missions that sought evidence of “habitable conditions in ancient times,” according to the NASA site, by searching for direct signs of microbial life. Ingenuity is part of a complementary mission to test technologies that future campaigns will require—eventually to include human flight on the nearby planet. The previous craft to land on Mars prior to Perseverance was InSight, on November 26, 2018.

Based in Maryland, Julie is an editor, aviation educator, and author. She holds an airline transport pilot certificate with Douglas DC-3 and CE510 (Citation Mustang) type ratings. She's a CFI/CFII since 1993, specializing in advanced aircraft and flight instructor development. Follow Julie on Twitter @julieinthesky.

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