PASADENA, CALIFORNIA — NASA's Perseverance rover is en route to the edge of a designated flight zone in Mars' Jezero crater, where the Ingenuity Mars helicopter will attempt its maiden flight in early April.
The $85 million helicopter is currently connected to the bottom of the rover.
When it arrives at the dropoff point, the helicopter will be rotated and released a few centimeters above the Martian surface.
After lowering Ingenuity to the ground, Perseverance will back up to a safe distance of around 100 meters away.
The helicopter will then undergo a series of tests to ensure it can keep warm autonomously through the intensely cold Martian nights, charge autonomously using its solar panel, communicate with the rover and flight operators on Earth, and spin up its rotor blades.
Ingenuity's first flight test will see the helicopter lift off to an altitude of three meters above the ground and hover for about 20 to 30 seconds.
If successful, this will be the first powered flight on another planet.
And the first of up to five autonomous flights in 30 Martian days.
Further tests will see the helicopter fly incrementally further and higher, to an altitude of 5 meters.