NASA on the verge of a historic helicopter flight to Mars

This NASA photo obtained on April 6, 2021, shows NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter with all four of its legs deployed before dropping from the belly of the Perseverance rover on March 30, 2021.

When the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter attempts the first powered, operated flight on another planet on Monday, NASA hopes to make history.

The flight had been scheduled for April 11 but was postponed due to a software problem discovered during a planned high-speed test of the aircraft's rotors.

The problem has been overcome, and the four-pound (1.8-kilogram) drone should be able to complete its mission by 3:30 a.m. Eastern Time (0730 GMT).

The data, on the other hand, will not arrive for several hours, and NASA will begin a Livestream at 6:15 a.m. (1015 GMT).

Before the first attempt, MiMi Aung, the Ingenuity project manager, said, "Each world gets just one first flight."

The Wright brothers completed the first powered flight on Earth in 1903 in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. In celebration of that achievement, a piece of fabric from that plane has been tucked within Ingenuity.

The rover Perseverance, which landed on Mars on February 18 on a mission to look for evidence of extraterrestrial existence, was attached to the underside of the helicopter.

Ingenuity, on the other hand, wants to show that its invention works, and it won't help Perseverance achieve its science goals.

However, it is hoped that human ingenuity will pave the way for potential flyers that will revolutionize our exploration of celestial bodies because they will be able to enter places where rovers cannot and move far faster.

The helicopter flight is timed to coincide with the conditions on Mars. The major unknown is wind, which could jeopardize the mission.

The flight is difficult due to the thin air on Mars, which has less than 1% of the pressure of Earth's atmosphere.

Even though it will be helped in part by a gravitational force a third that of Earth, this makes achieving lift even more difficult.

Videos of High Resolution

The helicopter will rise for approximately six seconds, hover and rotate for approximately 30 seconds, and then return to the ground.

Because of the 15 minutes, it takes for signals to pass from Earth to Mars, the flight will be autonomous and pre-programmed into the aircraft.

Ingenuity can assess its location on the Martian surface on its own.

Following the flight, Ingenuity will send technical data to Perseverance on what it has accomplished, which will then be transmitted back to Earth.

This will include a black-and-white photo of the Martian surface taken by Ingenuity while in flight.

Ingenuity will send another snapshot — in color, of the Martian horizon, taken with a different camera — once its batteries have been recharged.

The rover Perseverance, which will film the flight from a few meters away, is expected to provide the most stunning images.

Six 2.5-second videos will be sent to Earth shortly after this filming. At least one of them, NASA hopes, will demonstrate the helicopter in flight.

In the next few days, the entire video will be submitted.

"There will be some surprises, and you'll find out about them at the same time as we do. So let's all go get some popcorn, shall we? "Elsa Jensen, who is in charge of the rover's cameras, agreed.

'Extremely dangerous'

According to Aung, there are four potential outcomes: complete success, partial success, incomplete or no data returned, or failure.

If the mission is a success, NASA expects to launch another within four days. Over the course of a month, it schedules as many as five, each one being increasingly difficult.

The helicopter can rise five meters (16 feet) and then travel laterally, according to NASA.

According to Aung, ingenuity's "lifetime would be decided by how well it lands" each time, i.e. if it crashes.

"We'll have a good time until we get to the fourth and fifth flights," she said. "We're going to take very risky and daring flights."

Publish : 2021-04-19 10:32:00

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