Have you ever seen a remote-control plane? Imagine making something fly on a planet 100 million miles away!
NASA scientists imagined it. And they made it happen. On April 19, 2021, a helicopter named Ingenuity flew above Mars. Scientists did not control it with a remote. The helicopter flew by itself!
Ingenuity looks different than helicopters you might have seen. It is 19 inches tall and weighs only four pounds. It has two 4-foot blades that spin about 2,500 times per minute. That is much faster than regular helicopter blades spin. Ingenuity uses a tiny computer like the one in a smartphone. It also uses technology from self-driving cars.
Mars can get extremely cold at night. The temperature can drop to -90°C (-130°F). A small solar panel on top of Ingenuity charges batteries. This keeps the helicopter running and warm.
There is less gravity on Mars than there is on Earth. Engineers had to make sure that Ingenuity would not bounce and tip over.
Helicopters like Ingenuity will provide new views of Mars. They will send detailed views of whole canyons. They will also show close-up views of mountains and other places where rovers cannot travel.
What Do You Think? A high school student from Alabama came up with the name “Ingenuity.” Look up the meaning of the word. Why do you think the student chose that name?
Reading Response Click on this link to respond to your reading. Print out the response page or upload it to your classroom site.
Photo Credit: Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech