The Mars helicopter creativity is ready to go. Early Monday at 9:31 a.m. CEST, NASA will attempt its first engine-controlled flight on another planet. “We are optimistic that the helicopter will be able to take off from the surface of Mars at this time, but it is a test and we are prepared because it may not happen,” wrote Ingenuity Project Manager MiMi Aung.
Dexterity isn’t designed for long trips to collect large amounts of data. It is an experience. Mars’ atmosphere is thin, which requires very fast rotor cycles that consume a great deal of energy. Batteries also have to survive very cold nights and can only be charged with solar cells. All this results in lower high and low range.
In fact, the device should have flown off the previous Sunday. However, the surveillance program canceled the test of rotors. Due to this flight test issue, the Mars Ingenuity helicopter’s maiden flight had to be delayed. The responsible team quickly discovered the error in the command sequence and quickly found a solution to the software problem in Ingenuity. Some additional operating commands, including reinstalling the flight control software, were supposed to help to the extent that takeoff can take place in 85 percent of cases.
Live broadcast from 12.15
“We also know that we can try these commands again if the first attempt on Monday does not work,” Ong says. “There is a high probability that additional attempts will succeed in the following days, even if the first attempt does not work.” Meanwhile, NASA experts have come up with a second solution. More comprehensive. For this, the flight control program itself has been modified. NASA has already ported this new software version to the persistent Mars rover, but has not yet installed it on Ingenuity.
It will become clear shortly in the afternoon whether the first, smaller correction is sufficient. Transferring data from Mars takes a while after all. At 12:15 pm, NASA is supposed to start a “live broadcast” from Mars. This will be followed by a briefing at 8 p.m., during which NASA experts will answer questions about Ingenuity’s attempted flight.