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NASA may attempt 1st Mars helicopter flight on Monday

Update for April 19: Ingenuity successfully made its first flight on Mars. Read the full story here.


The first helicopter on Mars is once again ready to attempt a historic flight on another world. 

NASA will attempt the first flight of its Mars helicopter Ingenuity as early as Monday (April 19) after the tiny drone passed a critical test this weekend. The helicopter is targeted to take off at 3:30 a.m. EDT (0730 GMT) on Monday, NASA said today (April 17). 

It will take several hours for the data from that first flight to reach Earth, NASA said in a statement. You can watch that event live on Space.com and via NASA TV, starting at 6:15 a.m. EDT (1015 GMT). NASA will also hold a post-flight update at 2 p.m. EDT (1800 GMT).

Related: How to watch the Mars helicopter Ingenuity's first flight online

NASA's Mars helicopter Ingenuity, seen here in a close-up view from the Perseverance rover, will attempt its first flight on April 19, 2021. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)
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The historic flight — the first powered flight on another planet — was originally targeted for April 11, but delayed by a timer glitch during a preflight test on April 9. Ingenuity has since passed several new tests, most recently on Friday (April 16) when the drone aced a critical spin check of its four rotors.  

The $85 million Ingenuity helicopter arrived on Mars aboard the Perseverance rover on Feb. 18 when the latter touched down in a region known as Jezero Crater. The helicopter is a technology demonstration to test flying drones on other worlds. 

Related: Teach your kids to code a NASA Mars helicopter game

Ingenuity is small, standing 19 inches tall (48 centimeters), and weighs about 4 lbs. (1.8 kilograms). It carries a camera to snap aerial photos and is powered by a single solar panel perched atop its rotor blades. 

If all goes well, Ingenuity will take off from a flat patch, its Martian airfield, and fly to a height of 10 feet (3 meters) before landing 40 seconds later. The Perseverance rover, meanwhile, will watch the flight from a safe distance 16 feet (5 m) away and attempt to capture it on camera.

Ingenuity is expected to perform a series of ever-higher and longer test flights over a 30-sol (Martian day) period before ending its mission. The Perseverance rover will monitor the helicopter's progress before continuing its own mission to search for signs of ancient life on Mars and collect samples for future retrieval.

Visit Space.com Monday for complete coverage of the Mars Helicopter Ingenuity's first flight on the Red Planet.

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Tariq Malik

SPACE.COM EDITOR IN CHIEF — Tariq joined the Space.com team in 2001 as a staff writer, and later editor, covering human spaceflight, exploration and space science. He became Space.com's Managing Editor in 2009. Before joining Space.com, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Google+, Twitter and on Facebook.