NASA delays Mars helicopter flight
GS Paper - 3 Space Technology
NASA has delayed by at least several days the first flight of its mini-helicopter on Mars after a possible tech issue emerged while testing its rotors, the US space agency said 10 April 2021. Ingenuity's trip, which is to be the first-ever powered, controlled flight on another planet, was set for 11 April 2021 but is now on hold until at least 14 April.
- A high-speed test of the four-pound (1.8 kilogram) helicopter's rotors on 9 April 2021 ended earlier than expected due to an alert of a potential issue.
- The helicopter team is reviewing telemetry to diagnose and understand the issue, NASA said. Following that, they will reschedule the full-speed test.
- NASA noted the copter is "safe and healthy" and had sent information back to Earth.
- Initially the plan for 11 April 2021 was to have Ingenuity fly for 30 seconds to take a picture of the Perseverance rover, which touched down on Mars on 18 February with the helicopter attached to its underside.
- The flight is a true challenge because the air on Mars is so thin -- less than one percent of the pressure of Earth's atmosphere.
- This means Ingenuity must spin its rotor blades much faster than a helicopter needs to do on Earth in order to fly.
- After the flight, Ingenuity will send Perseverance technical data on what it has done, and that information will be transmitted back to Earth.
- This will include a black and white photo of the Martian surface that Ingenuity is programmed to snap while flying.
- A day later, once its batteries have charged up again, Ingenuity is to transmit another photo -- in color, of the Martian horizon, taken with a different camera.
- The mission is the equivalent on Mars of the first powered flight on Earth -- by the Wright brothers in 1903 in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.
- A piece of fabric from that plane has been tucked inside Ingenuity in honor of that feat.