At the beginning of Monday, a robotic helicopter that NASA sent to Mars will try to climb several feet in the air, hover and return. With that simple feat, it will become the first machine to fly through the fresh air of the red planet. NASA officials likened it to the Wright Brothers’ flight in 1903 at Kitty Hawk, NC. There was never something like an airplane or a helicopter that took off in another world. .
A helicopter on Mars, dubbed Ingenuity, travels from Earth under NASA’s Perseverance aircraft, landed in February on a mission looking for signs of ancient life near a dry river delta. shallow. A few weeks ago, Perseverance dropped dexterity onto a flat plains on Mars before flying a test.
The ingenuity is small. Its main body was the size of a soft ball with four spindly legs sticking out. At the top are two sets of blades, each about four feet long from head to tip. They spin in opposite directions at about 2,500 rpm, the fast speed needed to generate enough lift for the Ingenuity to get off the ground.
When will Ingenuity fly and how can I see it?
At the site Ingenuity on Mars, located in an ancient crater called Jezero, will be midday, around 12:30 pm Mars local solar time. (The time zone on the red planet has no name yet.)
For everyone on Earth that means around 3:30 am Eastern time on Monday. But no one on Earth will know for hours the flight success or failure, or whatever happened. Neither Dexterity nor Persistence will be contacted by NASA at that time.
Instead, the two spacecraft will automatically perform the flight, executing the commands sent to them on Sunday. Perseverance will then send the data back to Earth via a spaceship orbiting Mars.
NASA TV will begin broadcasting from the control room at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory starting at 6:15 am Eastern time when data begins to reach Earth. You can view it on the NASA website.
Additional information will be provided at a press conference at 2pm Eastern time on Monday.
What will happen during the test flight?
The first flight was a modest up and down one, reaching a height of just 10 feet. There, it will hover for up to 30 seconds and then land on the landing point. Its onboard camera will record the image, helping the navigation system maintain the level of the helicopter. On the ground more than 200 feet away, Perseverance’s camera would also record the flight.
If the test flight is successful, it is possible to try out up to four more aircraft. The first three were designed to test the basic capabilities of helicopters. The third flight could fly 160 feet and then back.
The last two flights could fly further, but NASA officials are reluctant to speculate on how much.
NASA wants to conclude the tests within 30 days on Mars of Ingenuity’s crash, so that Perseverance can begin the main part of its $ 2.7 billion mission. It would leave the helicopter behind and head towards a river plain along the rim of the Jezero crater, which holds sediments, and perhaps chemical signs of ancient life.
Finesse is an amazing $ 85 million add-on project but not a core requirement for Persistence’s success.
Why is it so difficult to fly a helicopter on Mars?
There isn’t a lot of air to push in to generate lift.
On the surface of Mars, the atmosphere is only 1/100 as dense as Earth. Lower gravity – a third of what you feel here – aids in movement in the air. But taking off from the Martian surface is comparable to flying 100,000 feet above Earth. No helicopters on our planet fly that high, and it’s more than twice the typical jet flight altitude.
Why is NASA flying a helicopter on Mars?
Until 1997, all spacecraft brought to the Martian surface were stationary landers. But that year, the Pathfinder mission included something revolutionary for NASA: a robot with wheels. That explorer vehicle, the Sojourner, was roughly the size of a short filing cabinet, and planetary scientists quickly realized the benefits of being able to navigate the Mars landscape. Four other NASA people, including Perseverance, have followed the red planet.
The ingenuity is essentially an aerial replica of Sojourner, a demonstration of a new technology that could be used more widely in later missions. And demonstrating that helicopters can fly on Mars could help inform flight attempts to other worlds in our solar system, such as Titan, Saturn’s moon, where NASA plans to send a quadcopter powered by nuclear power.