NASA’s Perseverance rover is doing its part to help make the first powered, controlled flight on another planet happen. The rover’s companion, the Ingenuity helicopter, will soon get to meet the ground on Mars.
NASA shared a first look at the little copter under the rover’s belly after dropping a protective shield.
«Away goes the debris shield, and here’s our first look at the helicopter. It’s stowed sideways, folded up and locked in place, so there’s some reverse origami to do before I can set it down,» NASA tweeted on Sunday.
Perseverance is traveling toward what NASA is calling the «helipad,» the designated spot for setting Ingenuity on the ground. The view under the belly comes from a camera mounted on the end of the rover’s robotic arm.
NASA will share more details on the procedures and plans for Ingenuity’s deployment during a briefing on Tuesday. The copter is considered a high-risk, high-reward technology demonstration. It will be spectacular if it works, but not surprising if it doesn’t.
The space agency also shared a video from a test on Earth showing how the helicopter will be set down. It’s a multi-step operation that requires repositioning Ingenuity, unlocking the landing legs and dropping it to the surface.
The rover has been discarding some parts of itself lately. Ingenuity’s debris shield follows after Perseverance left behind an ejectable belly pan earlier this month. Those pieces have done their duty and are no longer needed.
The Perseverance rover landed in February, but has already sent back plenty of stunning visuals and audio from the red planet. Ingenuity’s deployment will mark the beginning of a whole new aerial adventure on Mars.