When and for how long will Ingenuity fly? Can we attend the event? Here’s everything you need to know about the NASA helicopter that will make history.
You probably missed it: Ingenuity survived its first nights alone on the surface of Mars. This was one of the fears of the mission. On site, temperatures can indeed drop to -90 ° C when the sun goes down.
Before being placed on the ground, Ingenuity was strapped to the belly of Perseverance, drawing its energy from the rover. Here, the researchers had confirmation that the helicopter’s components were sufficiently well insulated and that the vehicle had managed to store enough energy during the day to survive the Martian nights on its own thanks to its own batteries.
Mission engineers are now preparing for the rotorcraft’s first attempt to fly.
When is Ingenuity going to fly?
NASA had proposed a first test for April 8. Finally, Ingenuity’s first flight will be “no earlier than April 11“, According to the American agency. Again, nothing is set in stone. Considering the difficulty of making a flight on another planet, the local conditions will have to be perfect.
How long will it fly?
Ingenuity’s first flight to Mars will not last probably only twenty to thirty seconds, according to NASA. During this time, the craft is expected to lift approximately three meters from the ground.
As a reminder, the atmospheric pressure on its surface is a hundred times less than on Earth. To rise, Ingenuity (which weighs only 1.8 kg) will therefore have to activate its blades at nearly 3,000 revolutions per minute, ten times faster than those of a helicopter on Earth.
If successful, which is far from guaranteed, the Ingenuity team will still have thirty days to attempt other, more ambitious flights over longer distances and higher altitudes.
Will we be able to witness this flight live?
Unfortunately for Ingenuity fans, there won’t be a live one. On the other hand, Perseverance will be placed at a good distance and will try to document the event (sounds and images). A recording could then be available and shared by NASA the next day or a few days later. As a reminder, the rover can only transmit two megabits of data per second to Earth.
What will happen next?
After these thirty days of test flights, Ingenuity will be abandoned in place, opening (hopefully) the way for other flying vehicles likely to integrate future missions. These machines could offer a unique point of view to astronauts by spotting crossing routes inaccessible by rovers. They could also allow the transport or recovery of small payloads.
The Perseverance rover will finally be able to focus on its main mission in the Jezero crater, namely to look for possible signs of past life.