Watch NASA’s mission control track the first flight on Mars

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The Verge 18 April, 2021 - 02:56pm 20 views

When will ingenuity fly on Mars?

NASA has rescheduled the first flight of its Ingenuity Mars helicopter to April 19th at 3:30AM ET, the agency announced Saturday. The four-pound helicopter that arrived on Mars on February 18th with its parent rover Perseverance has seen its first flight delayed a few times. The VergeNASA reschedules Ingenuity helicopter’s first flight on Mars for Monday

Did ingenuity fly on Mars yet?

NASA has recently confirmed that its Ingenuity mars mini-helicopter had successfully touched down on the red planet to prepare for its first flight. NASA Ingenuity is attached to the belly of NASA's Perseverance rover that touched down on Mars on February 18, 2021. Mashable IndiaNASA Delays First Flight Of Its Ingenuity Helicopter On Mars Yet Again!

NASA may attempt 1st Mars helicopter flight on Monday

Space.com 18 April, 2021 - 05:00pm

Takeoff is set for 3:30 a.m. EDT (0730 GMT).

NASA will attempt the first flight of its Mars helicopter Ingenuity as early as Monday (April 19) after the tiny drone passed a critical test this weekend. The helicopter is targeted to take off at 3:30 a.m. EDT (0730 GMT) on Monday, NASA said today (April 17). 

It will take several hours for the data from that first flight to reach Earth, NASA said in a statement. You can watch that event live on Space.com and via NASA TV, starting at 6:15 a.m. EDT (1015 GMT). NASA will also hold a post-flight update at 2 p.m. EDT (1800 GMT).

Related: How to watch the Mars helicopter Ingenuity's first flight online

Join our forums here to discuss the Perseverance rover on Mars. What do you hope finds?

The historic flight — the first powered flight on another planet — was originally targeted for April 11, but delayed by a timer glitch during a preflight test on April 9. Ingenuity has since passed several new tests, most recently on Friday (April 16) when the drone aced a critical spin check of its four rotors.  

The $85 million Ingenuity helicopter arrived on Mars aboard the Perseverance rover on Feb. 18 when the latter touched down in a region known as Jezero Crater. The helicopter is a technology demonstration to test flying drones on other worlds. 

Related: Teach your kids to code a NASA Mars helicopter game

Ingenuity is small, standing 19 inches tall (48 centimeters), and weighs about 4 lbs. (1.8 kilograms). It carries a camera to snap aerial photos and is powered by a single solar panel perched atop its rotor blades. 

If all goes well, Ingenuity will take off from a flat patch, its Martian airfield, and fly to a height of 10 feet (3 meters) before landing 40 seconds later. The Perseverance rover, meanwhile, will watch the flight from a safe distance 16 feet (5 m) away and attempt to capture it on camera.

Ingenuity is expected to perform a series of ever-higher and longer test flights over a 30-sol (Martian day) period before ending its mission. The Perseverance rover will monitor the helicopter's progress before continuing its own mission to search for signs of ancient life on Mars and collect samples for future retrieval.

Visit Space.com Monday for complete coverage of the Mars Helicopter Ingenuity's first flight on the Red Planet.

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Nasa's Ingenuity Mars helicopter set for first flight

BBC News 18 April, 2021 - 02:09pm

If successful, it would be the first powered, controlled flight on another planet.

The demonstration should see the Mars-copter - called Ingenuity - rise to about 3m, hover for roughly 30 seconds, swivel and then land.

But with never-tried-before technology and challenging flying conditions, the flight will be difficult to pull off.

"It feels absolutely nuts,” says Farah Alibay, a systems engineer at Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).

"We've been flying on Earth for just over 100 years, and now we're like, 'yeah, we're gonna go to another planet and fly'. It's crazy. But that's the beauty of exploration. That's the beauty of engineering.”

Ingenuity is scheduled for lift-off at 07:30 GMT (08:30 BST) on Monday. The first data revealing whether the chopper experiment worked should start arriving back at Earth some three hours later.

This information has to be relayed through Nasa's Perseverance rover and a satellite at Mars that will beam it to JPL.

The Perseverance Rover landed in a region of the Red Planet called Jezero Crater. The robot carried the helicopter beneath it as it made the perilous descent to Mars' surface in February.

Perseverance then drove to an "airstrip" about 20m away from its landing site, lowering Ingenuity to the ground and taking a selfie of the two of them.

Engineers say the helicopter looks in good shape for its test flight. A software patch to take care of a technical glitch was installed and tested in recent days, but everything should now be ready for the big moment.

A full-speed rotor run-up was performed on Friday.

"We have fully confirmed that Ingenuity has enough energy and power to perform this flight at Mars," said MiMi Aung, Ingenuity project manager, at a pre-flight press briefing.

If the flight works, a further four flights will be attempted over the coming days, each one taking the helicopter further afield.

The atmosphere on Mars is extremely thin - about 1% of the density here on Earth - and this doesn't give the helicopter much air to "bite" into.

The pull of gravity on the Red Planet is less, which helps - but even so engineers have had to build their chopper very light. It has a mass of just 1.8kg (4lb).

The two 1.2m-long rotors spin in opposite directions at up to 2,500rpm. This is extremely fast - indeed, the rotor tips will be moving at about two-thirds of the speed of sound on Mars. This should provide the lift Ingenuity needs.

Nasa has been keeping an eye on the winds in Jezero. These could measure up to 20m per second - faster than what was tested on Earth. But the team believes the helicopter will cope.

Ingenuity has two cameras onboard.

A black-and-white camera that points down to the ground, which is used for navigation, and a high-resolution colour camera that looks out to the horizon.

The rover will also be snapping away from a distance of about 65m. It will be using its zoom cameras to try to get some close-ups of the action. With luck we should also get to see some video.

All this has its complications as well. Both the rover and helicopter function autonomously and carry separate clocks. The timing devices will need to be in sync for the photography to work.

Key frames have already been selected for priority return in the data downlink on Monday. We'll just have to wait to see if these were lucky choices.

"We have practised it, so we hope everything will go well… But we know there'll be surprises," said Elsa Jensen, uplink operations lead.

The US space agency says the flight will be a "Wright Brothers moment" - a reference to the first powered, controlled aircraft flight here on Earth in 1903.

To mark the connection, a postage stamp-sized piece of fabric from a wing of the brothers' plane was taped to Ingenuity before it left Earth. It's worth noting that the Wright Brothers' first flight lasted just 12 seconds. Great things start with small steps.

The hope is this small technology demonstration could eventually transform how we explore some distant worlds.

"You can traverse places without being hindered by the terrain in the same way as a land-based vehicle is,” explains Havard Grip, Ingenuity’s chief pilot.

"It could do scouting missions for future rovers, perhaps, or even for astronauts, and then we're also thinking about it in terms of the potential for carrying its own science instruments to places that are very hard to access."

Nasa has already approved a helicopter mission to Titan, the big moon of Saturn. This has a very thick atmosphere. Dragonfly, as the mission is known, should arrive at Titan in the mid-2030s.

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