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NASA Mars Helicopter Ingenuity: How to Watch the First Flight on Another Planet



The Ingenuity helicopter could make aviation history on Mars.

NASA / JPL-Caltech

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

NASA hopes Monday to realize “the first powered, controlled flight on another planet.” Helicopter ingenuity tries to fly over Mars. If you want to watch the memorable flight, here’s how you can follow it.

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.

The flight attempt had been delayed from the original target date of April 11 to surrender NASA time to update the machine’s software ended prematurely after a spin test of the rotors. The helicopter has since successfully completed a rapid spin test, an important milestone that brought it closer to launch.

The agency will livestream the broadcast of Ingenuity’s maiden flight on NASA TV. If all goes well, the helicopter will attempt its flight around 12:30 p.m. PT on Monday, and NASA will begin its live stream at 3:15 p.m. PT. “Data from the first flight will return to Earth a few hours after the autonomous flight,” the space agency said in a statement Saturday.

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. A post-flight briefing is scheduled for 11 a.m.PT.

“The rover will provide support during flight operations, take photos, collect environmental data and host 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 when it works, but not shocking when 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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