The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Jet Propulsion Lab will be conducting a historic flight of Mars Helicopter Ingenuity on the red planet today. Ingenuity made its landing on Mars earlier in February as a part of the Mars Perseverance Mission. The American agency will be broadcasting the live feed of Mars helicopter’s first flight test on April 19 at 3:15 am PDT that is 3:45 pm IST. Interested viewers can tune in to the NASA Television, the agency app, website, and social media platforms, including YouTube and Facebook to watch the event as it unfolds.
Ahead of its test flight on Monday, Perseverance dropped Ingenuity on a flat Martian plain a couple of weeks ago. The helicopter is small in size, with its main body about the size of a softball with four sleek legs sticking out. With two sets of carbon-fibre blades, measuring about four feet from tip to tip, arranged into two rotors that spin in opposite directions at around 2,400 rpm, Ingenuity is many times faster than a passenger helicopter that exists on Earth. With the rapid speeds gained by this motion, Ingenuity will generate enough lift to get off the ground.
The rotors were unlocked on April 8 as Ingenuity prepared to get ready for testing following which NASA JPL will run a slow-speed spin-up of the blades for the first time on the Martian surface. The first flight will be a simple manoeuvre of up-and-down motion, where Ingenuity will rise up to an altitude of just 10 feet. As it would reach that height it will hover for up to 30 seconds and then return to base.
The success of the flight will also depend on the weather, wind speed, and possible thunderstorms that take place on Mars. The flight will take place within an ancient crater named Jezero, where Perseverance made its landing in February. Earlier the test flight of Ingenuity was scheduled to take place on April 11. However, the date was shifted after NASA JPL engineers worked on preflight checks and a solution to a command sequence issue.
In its press release, NASA mentioned that the Perseverance rover will provide support during flight operations, and will also take images, collect environmental data, and host the base station that enables the helicopter to communicate with mission controllers back on Earth.