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Mars helicopter Ingenuity unlocks its rotor blades to prepare for 1st flight on Red Planet

Home News Spaceflight The Mars helicopter Ingenuity has unlocked its two rotor blades as preparations continue for the vehicle’s first flight, due to occur no earlier than Sunday (April 11).Ingenuity arrived on Mars Feb. 18 along with NASA’s Perseverance rover, having made the long trek out to the Red Planet tucked inside the rover’s belly.…


The Mars helicopter Ingenuity has unlocked its two rotor blades as preparations continue for the vehicle’s first flight, thanks to happen no earlier than Sunday (April 11).

Ingenuity arrived on Mars Feb. 18 along with NASA’s Perseverance rover, making the long trek out to the Red Planet tucked inside the rover’s belly. As of April 4, the tiny chopper has parted ways with Perseverance, preparing to take to the heavens during a month-long evaluation campaign. If Ingenuity’s Sunday sortie is powerful, it will be the very first powered, guided flight to a different planet.

“The blades of glory, aka rotor blades of the #MarsHelicopter, have been unlocked and are ready for testing,” NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California composed in a tweet published early today (April 8). “Next, we’ll do a slow-speed spin-up of the blades for the first time on the Martian surface.”

Related: These selfies of NASA’s Mars helicopter & the Perseverance rover are just amazing

A series of images show the Ingenuity helicopter's blades moving after being unlocked.

A set of images show the Ingenuity helicopter’s blades proceeding after being unlocked. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU)

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Ingenuity’s flight preparation process was slow and cautious, in part because the 4-lb. (1.8 kilograms) helicopter made the trip to Mars in a folded configuration, tucked behind a protective shield.

After the rover dropped that protect and drove into the airfield, the helicopter’s staff needed to dictate the device to unpack and gradually unfold itself. Subsequently Perseverance needed to put Ingenuity directly on the Martian surface and push away, letting the helicopter’s solar panels to begin supporting the aircraft.

Blades on the Ingenuity Mars helicopter during the unlocking process, as seen on Apr. 8, 2021.

Blades about the Ingenuity Mars helicopter throughout the unlocking procedure, as noticed on Apr. 8, 2021. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU)

Unlocking and analyzing Ingenuity’s blades mark the last significant landmarks prior to the helicopter tries to fly. NASA officials also have said they’ll examine the blades first at 50 and then at two,400 revolutions per second before the helicopter attempts to fly.

Meanwhile, as Ingenuity creates its flight trainings, Perseverance is checking out the scenery and continuing to settle in on the Red Planet. Among other activities, the car-sized rover has been snapping photos of its own tire tracks and its complex science arm.

Email Meghan Bartels in mbartels@space.com or follow on Twitter @meghanbartels. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

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