Science Art: Ingenuity Mars helicopter, by NASA/JPL-Caltech

Scientific illustration of the Mars Ingenuity helicopter, by NASA/JPL-Caltech

Scientific illustration of the Mars Ingenuity helicopter, by NASA/JPL-Caltech

Next week, on February 18, this little chopper will touch down on Mars with the Perseverance rover. Then, a little while later, it’ll take off for a few seconds. Then a few more. Then it’ll start whirring around the atmosphere. The Mars Ingenuity helicopter (you can see videos at that link) is designed to test how well a familiar flying machine can maneuver in the thinner atmosphere of Mars (and keep itself going with a solar panel and lithium-ion batteries) during a 30-day flight window. If it happens to learn anything else, that’ll be a bonus. The flight tests are meant to clear the way for a new generation of drone aircraft to explore the planet on future Mars missions.