NASA's highly-anticipated Mars helicopter flight is finally here. The team behind the project spent six years developing Ingenuity, the first aircraft to fly on the Red Planet.
Ingenuity's first flight
On Monday, Apr. 19, the ultra-lightweight robot will try taking off into Mars' sky and if it succeeds, this maneuver will be the first powered, controlled flight on another planet.
According to The Verge, Ingenuity is scheduled to take off at 3:30 a.m. EDT or 7:30 GMT on Apr. 19, but its flight controllers are wary. If Ingenuity makes it off the Martian ground, NASA will broadcast a livestream of the first test flight data as it reaches Ingenuity's mission team at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory or JPL in California.
NASA's Ingenuity project
The $85 million Ingenuity will try lifting off from the ground around midday Mars time, when NASA says the winds in the area are expected to be at their lightest.
Ingenuity will start ascending to a height of about 10 feet. It will hover for about 20 seconds, then descend at about three feet per second until it lands back onto Jezero Crater.
NASA's Perseverance rover will act as the communications intermediary between Ingenuity, orbiting spacecraft assisting the flight, and mission control. The rover will serve as an active observer as well by taking pictures and videos of this first flight at a distance of 330 feet away from Ingenuity's airfield.
As the information is relayed from the rover through NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, or MRO, back to Earth, the download team will be watching carefully.
Tim Canham, the Ingenuity operations lead at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory or JPL, said during a press conference that the first thing that they will do is verify that they got the data correctly, and then the information is looked over for evidence that Ingenuity ascended, hovered, and landed.
They will confirm these findings with altimeter data to then know for certain whether or not the flight occurred.
The team will also get a look at black-and-white navigation photos taken by the 0.5 megapixel downward-facing camera on the bottom of the Ingenuity's fuselage, according to Canham.
Other images, like the color views coming from Perseverance, will likely be downlinked later. Ingenuity is also equipped with a one-color 13 megapixel horizon-facing terrain camera, but it is not yet clear when those will be available to the public.
Mimi Aung, Ingenuity project manager at JPL, wrote in a NASA blog on Apr. 17 that their team considers Ingenuity's attempted first flight like a rocket launch. They are doing everything that they can to make it a success, but they also know that they may have to scrub and try again.
Monday's flight will mark the second time that NASA has been poised to fly Ingenuity on the Red Planet. The Mars helicopter's first flight attempt on Apr. 11 was delayed by a timing glitch in its systems, which mission engineers have addressed.
This article is owned by Tech Times
Written by Sieeka Khan