If all goes according to plan the ingenuity is getting ready for its historic flight on Tuesday. The first controlled, controlled flight to another planet is reported to take place on April 19 at 3:30 a.m. ET NASA.
Unlike the helicopter’s fellow passenger Perseverance Rover that landed on Mars on February 18, we can not see the pictures or know if it was a success.
The helicopter team will be on mission control at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California early Monday morning to retrieve and analyze the first data from the ingenious flight attempt.
Live broadcast available NASA site A postlight conference is scheduled for ET starting at 6:15 a.m. Monday and ending at 2 p.m. Monday.
The flight was originally scheduled for April 11, but was replaced after a command-line problem was discovered when the helicopter went through a priority verification process with its software.
Ingenuity conducted a high-speed test of its rotors on April 10, but the command line ended early because a tracking timer had expired. The initial result of the test occurred when the helicopter attempted to switch the flight system from Priority to Airplane mode.
The helicopter team decided on a software solution that would change the way the helicopter’s two flight controllers started. This should make it easier to switch from priority to aircraft for both hardware and software.
Helicopter crew shows the helicopter successfully completed its rapid rotation test on April 16th.
Now, without the help of its teams on intermediate Earth, it would have to fly spontaneously through the thin Martian atmosphere.
The first flight
The tech demonstrative ingenuity will fly for a total of about 40 seconds on Monday. The 4-pound helicopter will rotate its two 4-foot blades, soar 10 feet (3 meters) in the air, circle, make a turn, take a photo, and touch down again on Mars.
If this first flight is successful, the ingenuity may fly four more times in the coming weeks.
The small helicopter has so far tested several milestones such as waving its blades Survives frost cold nights in Mars.
Radio signals take 15 minutes and 27 seconds to cross the current gap between Earth and Mars, which spans 173 million miles (278.4 million kilometers).
“Mars is hard when you land, but even when you try to fly away from it,” said Mimi Ang, JBL’s ingenious project manager. “It has significantly lower gravity, but less than 1% of its atmospheric pressure. Put those things together and you have a vehicle that demands that each input be correct.”
Capturing the first plane
The helicopter and its mission team on Earth will receive flight instructions from JPL, a Perseverance rover that will help them communicate with each other. The rover will then send those plans to the helicopter. At a distance of 215 feet (65 meters) from the helicopter the perseverance will be stopped so that the aircraft can be viewed safely and capture pictures and videos.
After some initial testing of the blades before flight, the ingenuity will rotate the rotors and run its plane. Priority tests will allow the helicopter to configure the pitch of the blades.
“It takes six seconds to climb to the maximum altitude for this first flight,” Heward Griff, flight control lead for ingenuity at JBL, said in a statement. “When we hit 10 feet, the ingenuity goes into a float that lasts – if all goes well – about 30 seconds.”
During this float, the helicopter navigation system captures images up to 30 times per second, which ensures that it is in the middle of an ingenious position and its 33-by-33-foot (10-by-10-meter) aerial field.
Each time the helicopter is at an altitude it will use a second high-resolution camera that will ingeniously head towards the horizon to capture images.
When the helicopter lands on Mars, it will send the data back to Earth via rover.
Low resolution black and white images are first available from the helicopter’s navigation camera, followed by color images the next day. The rover will return images and video from its multiple cameras. Diligence has been practicing video capture since the helicopter tested its blades in recent days.
“The Wright brothers had only a few eyewitnesses to their first flight, but the historic moment was captured in an excellent photo with gratitude,” JBL director Michael Watkins said in a statement. “Now, 117 years later, our robot photographers on Mars are able to offer a wonderful opportunity to share the results of the first attempt at a controlled spacecraft operating in another world.”
That first black-and-white image from the helicopter’s navigation camera is important because the ingenious actions at JBL are guiding that “it will help us to localize the place where the helicopter landed”.
Grip, the chief pilot for Ingenuity, will analyze the first data returned from the helicopter to determine if it was elevated, moved, rotated and successfully landed.
“The primary purpose of this project is to obtain detailed engineering data that can be used to determine the performance of the vehicle, and then that data can be used by future projects to build even larger and better helicopters,” Cunham said.
Ingenious members are nervous in anticipation of this historic moment that has been preparing for the past eight years.
There are four possibilities for Monday: full success, partial success, insufficient or lack of data or failure, Ang said.
“From day one of this project our team has to overcome insurmountable technical challenges,” Ang said. “We’ve come a long way with an unspoken attitude, a lot of friends from many technical disciplines and a company that wants to turn distant ideas into reality.”
After the first flight, Ingenuity will get a “rest day” to charge using its solar panel. The team will use the data sent by the helicopter that week to plan its next flight.
The flight path will gradually decrease. Ingenuity can fly four days after the first flight and three days after the second flight. In later flights the helicopter could be seen flying up to 16 feet (5 meters) Lateral movements 50 feet (15 meters) out and back.
“Once we get to the fourth and fifth flights, we’ll have fun,” Ang said. “We really want to push the limits. You don’t have to test a rotorcraft on Mars every day. So we want to be very adventurous.”