Watch NASA’s mission control track the first flight on Mars
The twin-blade rotorcraft will try to ascend 10 feet above ground and hover in place for 30 seconds while cameras on NASA’s Perseverance rover record the historic attempt from a distance.
The four-pound Ingenuity copter landed on Mars on February 18th attached to the underbelly of Perseverance, NASA’s latest Mars rover whose main mission is to search for signs of ancient Martian life.
If all goes well, engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California will start planning for the next four, which could see the craft soar higher and travel farther, depending on the results of its first attempt.
JPL engineers have sought to set expectations for the test flight during recent press conferences: “This is really hard,” said Elsa Jensen, operations lead for one of the cameras aboard Perseverance that’ll be fixed on Ingenuity.
“But we know there’ll be surprises.”If the flight takes off as planned on Monday, NASA will have live streams beginning around 6:15 AM ET on Monday hosted on YouTube, its website, Twitter, Facebook, and Twitch.
Because of the long data delay between Mars and Earth, we won’t see a live video of the flight attempt — it will probably take a few days to get that footage.
Tune in early on Monday to see how the historic flight goes. Ingenuity’s power supply will be exhausted upon landing, so it needs to beam data to Perseverance in the most efficient way possible.
The images from Ingenuity, along with troves of summary data, will radio signals to a so-called Mars Base Station situated on Perseverance’s body, which will relay those signals to a satellite orbiting Mars, which will then shoot the data through NASA’s Deep Space Network all the way back to Earth.
Based on several hours of tests, simulations, and Martian weather analyses, Aung said “confidence is high” among the engineering team. Ingenuity’s four-foot-long carbon fiber blades successfully unlocked last week after it planted its feet on the surface, and engineers were able to conduct a brief spin test at 50 pm.
Aung said the helicopter’s “lifetime will be determined by how well it lands,” suggesting engineers could be able to carry out more flight tests within the 31-day window if things are successful.