Perseverance, the rover that landed on the surface of Mars in February for seeking signs of life on Mars, has dropped the debris shield that protected the helicopter attached to its belly.
The tiny chopper, dubbed Ingenuity, weighs 1.8kg and was made at a cost of about $85 million so it could withstand the journey to Mars as well as carry out tests on the surface. According to a Tweet from the official Perseverance account, it is “stowed sideways, folded up and locked in place, so there’s some reverse origami to do before I can set it down”. The tweet further explained that Perseverance would have to travel to the designated area where Ingenuity can be deployed, and it was “a couple days drive” away.
A video has also been released by Space.com that shows the debris shield going off and Ingenuity getting its first taste of the Mars atmosphere. NASA will hold a press conference at 1:30 p.m. EDT today to share details of Ingenuity’s flight plan. According to preliminary reports, NASA expects the first test flights to start “no earlier than the first week of April”.
Once Perseverance has collected the necessary data from Ingenuity’s flights, it will shift focus to the rest of its task, mainly hunting for signs of life on Mars and collecting samples for its return to Earth.