NASA’s Ingenuity mini-helicopter is charging up its solar panels and spinning its blades in preparation to fly above the Martian surface. The 4-pound drone is set to lift off early on Monday in an atmosphere just 1/100th as dense as Earth’s, rise 10 feet above Mars’ Jezero Crater, harboring, NASA hopes, fossilized life that might have thrived billions of years ago, then gently touch back down. The insect-like craft uses a microchip that is comparable to what was found in cellphones a few years ago –about 150 times the computing power available to the much larger Perseverance rover.
“The landing site in Jezero Crater with landforms reaching as far back as 3.6 billion years old, could potentially answer important questions in planetary evolution and astrobiology,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. “It will revolutionize how we think about Mars and its ability to harbor life.”
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