Excitement is building for the launch of NASA’s Mars 2020 mission on July 20. Heading to the red planet will be the Perseverance rover and Ingenuity. ASA's Ingenuity Mars Helicopter will travel with the Perseverance rover through 314 million miles (505 million kilometers) of interplanetary space to get to Mars. But for the team working on the first experimental flight test on another planet, engineering the final 5 inches (13 centimeters) of the journey has been among the most challenging of all. To safely navigate those 5 inches - the distance Ingenuity will travel from where it's stowed on the rover to the surface of Mars - they came up with the ingenious Mars Helicopter Delivery System.
Ingenuity, meanwhile, will help NASA to find potentially useful research sites on the planet, and also gather data for mapping routes for future Mars rovers. The helicopter weighs just 4 pounds (1.8 kg) and features four rotors, each one a little over a meter long. At its core is a small, box-like fuselage that holds the aircraft’s downward-facing camera. Solar cells and batteries will take care of the helicopter’s power needs, while an internal heater will help it deal with Mars’ extremely cold nights.
The mission was recently delayed by several days as additional time was needed to carry out repairs on some ground system equipment related to the launch. Assuming everything goes to plan from here on in, the United Launch Alliance rocket carrying both the rover and the helicopter will lift off from Cape Canaveral in Florida at 9:15 a.m. E.T. on July 20, with the equipment reaching Mars in February 2021.