NASA's Mars Ingenuity Helicopter's Bay Area Touch

The one-of-a kind helicopter is poised to send back incredible images

NBC Universal, Inc.

Developed by NASA -- largely at the Bay Area's Ames Research Center in Mountain View -- Ingenuity is a bit like a tourist, and it will soon fly above the Martian surface taking pictures.

"The public will get an interesting perspective of flying on Mars,” said NASA Ames aerospace engineer Larry Young.

Engineers will get to see if all that wind tunnel work paid off and this little machine can actually fly through the Martian atmosphere, where, among other things, it gets really really cold.

"The batteries on Ingenuity -- about 30 percent of the batteries -- are being used just to make sure the vehicle can survive the Martian night,” said Young.  “It doesn't have anything to do with flying."

Also on board are Bay Area radios. “One on the rover and one on the helicopter itself,” said Tobin Richardson, CEO of Zigbee Alliance.

Made by Zigbee Alliance, it's the same technology that lets your Amazon Alexa communicate with the lights or computers in your house.

"It's great for small devices, like a hub to a lightbulb, but it's also great for a helicopter to a rover, to check where it is and tell it what to do,” said Richardson. “It makes a lot of sense."

Communication, photo sharing, and engineering -- all on a planet we humans may someday try to reach.

The plan for the Ingenuity helicopter is to take five flights over 30 days or in Martian terms, 30 sols, while on the red planet. Each one a little longer than the other.  The initial take off is likely in mid-April. 

Learn more about NASA's Mars Ingenuity helicopter here.

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