MIAMI (CBSMiami) – NASA is gearing up for a historic flight this weekend.
For the first time ever, the space agency will attempt to fly an aircraft on another planet.READ MORE: NASA To Use Infrared Lasers In Mission That Could Revolutionize Space Communication
“Ingenuity” weighs four pounds, but the Mars helicopter carries some big dreams.
“This really is a big deal,” says Lori Glaze, NASA’s planetary science director. “Ingenuity” is the first aircraft ever designed to fly on another planet. It arrived on Mars in February aboard NASA’s latest rover. “This is really, really gonna be consequential if we can really demonstrate that we can fly on Mars,” says Glaze.
Researchers spent years developing the solar-powered, twin-rotor machine.
Their biggest challenge was figuring out how to fly in the atmosphere of Mars, where the air is nearly 100 times thinner than Earth’s.READ MORE: Jury Deliberations Enter Fourth Day In Dayonte Resiles Murder Trial
The aircraft operates autonomously and, if it works, the technology could be vital for future missions on Mars and other planets.
“We can use that helicopter or that aerial vehicle to fly over to locations that we can’t reach with a robotic rover or robotic craft, or with humans even, there might be places we can’t reach or can’t get to,” says Glaze.
On the first flight, NASA aims to hover the aircraft 10 feet above the ground for 30 seconds, with each flight after that lasting a bit longer.
“Ingenuity” will carry a bit of our history along for the ride: a small piece of fabric from the original Wright brothers’ plane. A token of good luck for an aircraft that could forever change how we explore other worlds.MORE NEWS: Florida Native Luke Delaney Joins NASA's New Astronaut Class Of 2021
NASA hopes to attempt the first flight of the Mars helicopter sometime on Sunday, April 11.