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Watch how NASA plans to deploy the first-ever Mars helicopter

Excitement is building for the launch of NASA’s Mars 2020 mission on July 20.

Heading to the red planet will be the Perseverance rover and Ingenuity, a small helicopter that’s set to become the first-ever aircraft to fly on another planet.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory has just released a video (below) showing the clever way in which Perseverance will deploy the helicopter once it reaches the Martian surface.

As NASA points out in its tweet, “the journey of 314 million miles all comes down to the last few inches” for the helicopter, which is relying on Perseverance to safely deposit it on the ground ahead of its maiden flight.

The upcoming mission will see Perseverance exploring the surface of Mars for signs of ancient life. The six-wheeled machine, which has been put through its paces ahead of the much-anticipated mission, will also gather samples of rock and soil for possible return to Earth.

Ingenuity, meanwhile, will help NASA to find potentially useful research sites on the planet, and also gather data for mapping routes for future Mars rovers. The helicopter weighs just 4 pounds (1.8 kg) and features four rotors, each one a little over a meter long. At its core is a small, box-like fuselage that holds the aircraft’s downward-facing camera. Solar cells and batteries will take care of the helicopter’s power needs, while an internal heater will help it deal with Mars’ extremely cold nights.

The mission was recently delayed by several days as additional time was needed to carry out repairs on some ground system equipment related to the launch. Assuming everything goes to plan from here on in, the United Launch Alliance rocket carrying both the rover and the helicopter will lift off from Cape Canaveral in Florida at 9:15 a.m. E.T. on July 20, with the equipment reaching Mars in February 2021.

Check back later for more information on how to watch the launch live online.

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