All systems are “go” for the maiden Mars flight of NASA’s small helicopter Ingenuity.
In February, NASA successfully landed its Perseverance rover on Mars, which carried little Ingenuity on its underbelly.
After undergoing a meticulous deployment from the Mars rover, Ingenuity is finally ready to fly on Mars this weekend. If successful, the 4-pound helicopter named Ingenuity would be the first powered flight by an aircraft on another planet!
Last week, rover Perseverance slowly, deliberately deployed Ingenuity from its underbelly to the Mars surface over several days. Once completely deployed to the surface, Perseverance left Ingenuity alone so that the sun could charge the little helicopter’s batteries.
Back when Ingenuity was attached to Perseverance, it received power from the rover, which allowed the chopper’s heater to keep its internal components at 45 degrees during the bitter cold Martian nights. But now that Ingenuity is on its own and only getting power from its own little solar panels, that nighttime internal temperature has dropped to 5 degrees.
Thankfully Ingenuity has survived the cold nights on Mars!
On Monday and Tuesday, jet propulsion lab scientists conducted electronic testing. On Wednesday, Ingenuity’s rotor blades were unlocked and on Thursday began spinning.
Now, it looks like NASA’s first Ingenuity test flight will take place overnight this Sunday night! The agency is preparing to hold a news briefing ahead of the flight.
The small chopper’s first flight will be pretty simple: Ingenuity will take off a few feet above the ground, hover there for twenty to thirty seconds and then land. If this is a success, NASA will get more and more ambitious with the small aircraft in the days ahead.
NASA is comparing the maiden flight of Ingenuity to the Wright brothers’ first successful powered flight. Tucked under Ingenuity’s solar panels is a small piece of material that covered the wings of the Wright brothers’ aircraft when it took the first solo flight that fateful dat in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.
NASA’s successfully landed its Mars Rover Perseverance on Feb. 18 this year near an ancient river delta in the Jezero Crater to search for signs of ancient microscopic life. Perseverance is now the ninth spacecraft to successfully land on Mars since the 1970s, and each of those spacecrafts have been from the U.S.
Over the next two years, the rover will collect rock samples containing possible signs of bygone microscopic life, which will eventually be retrieved by another rover and brought back to Earth by another rocket ship.