NASA openly admits that they do not expect any practical benefit from the first flight of a man-made vehicle in the atmosphere of Mars. This mission has a symbolic meaning, it is similar to the first flight of the Wright brothers, which, although it lasted a few seconds, proved the very possibility of flying heavier-than-air vehicles. But that was on Earth, and in the case of the first Martian helicopter Ingenuity we are already talking about flights in the rarefied atmosphere of the Red Planet – scientists and engineers want to make sure that everything was done correctly.
The connection with the flight of the first aircraft is not only symbolic, but also material – at a recent briefing, the chief engineer of the project, Bob Balaram, spoke about the cache hidden on board the helicopter. It contains a tiny piece of the wing skin of the same Wright Brothers plane that was specially removed from the museum for this mission. This artifact, and there is no other name for it, should bring Ingenuity good luck and help to survive the most difficult first night on Mars.
In about two days, the Perseverance rover will reach a point in the Jezero crater, where there is a relatively flat and level area 90 m long.It will lower the helicopter to the ground and drive off to the side to serve as an observation point – from that moment on, Ingenuity will work autonomously. According to calculations, the solar panel of the helicopter should be enough to supply it with energy, including during a very cold Martian night. But the risk still remains.
The helicopter has to go through a fairly significant number of checks before it makes its first flight. Tentative date: April 8, 2021. As in the case of the Wright brothers’ plane, this will be the shortest possible maneuver, a simple ascent to a height of 3 m, hovering and landing. And only then, if successful, will begin what can be called the beginning of controlled flights in the atmosphere of Mars.