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NASA Ingenuity Helicopter Set for Historic Mars Flight: How to Track



NASA’s experimental Ingenuity helicopter hopes to fly to Mars.

NASA / JPL-Caltech / ASU

This story is part of Welcome to Mars, our series on the red planet.

Let’s take a moment to marvel at the phrase “the first powered, controlled flight on another planet.”

; NASA hopes to reach that momentous milestone very soon with the Helicopter ingenuity on Mars.

The tiny helicopter hitchhiked to Mars under the belly of the Perseverance rover, which dropped it on the surface about a week ago. The two machines posed for a photo together. The rover will act as a witness to Ingenuity’s efforts to get off the ground.

Ingenuity’s attempt was aimed at Sunday, but NASA said Saturday it was “postponed until no earlier than April 14”.

“During a high-speed test of the rotors on Friday, the command sequence running the test ended early due to the expiration of a watchdog timer,” NASA said. “The watchdog timer monitors the command sequence and alerts the system to potential problems. It helps the system to stay safe by not proceeding if a problem is detected and works as planned.”

The space agency said the Ingenuity team is diagnosing the problem and will reschedule the rotor test based on its findings. Ingenuity is “safe and healthy,” said NASA.

The agency will live stream confirmation of Ingenuity’s maiden flight on NASA TV.

This won’t be the same as watching a sporting event with live footage, but the NASA team hopes to get back results that indicate a successful hovering operation.

“The rover will provide support during flight operations, taking photos, collecting environmental data and hosting the base station that allows the helicopter to communicate with mission controllers on Earth,” NASA said in a statement.


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NASA has emphasized that Ingenuity is a high-risk, high-reward technology demonstration. It will be exciting if it works, but not shocking if it doesn’t. If the first flight goes well, more attempts will follow. NASA has set the scheduled flight test period to a maximum of 31 Earth days.

There is a lucky stalisman for the ride. Ingenuity has one thing small piece of the famous Wright Brothers Flyer attached to it, drawing a direct line between making aviation history on both Earth and Mars.

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