Planet Talk

NASA’s Upcoming Helicopter Launch

Earlier today, NASA announced its upcoming take-off from Mars. NASA has scheduled the first flight of the helicopter, Ingenuity, for Monday, April 19, at 3:30 am ET. Ingenuity has been on Mars since February 18, 2021, famous for being the first aircraft on Mars and even the first aircraft to make controlled flight to another planet. Although the flight hovering Mars has been delayed several times, it is finally launching off in just two days! In order to pass the requirements for launching, Ingenuity took a critical test this weekend, in which the aircraft had to spin its blades at the speed required for flight, about 2,400 revolutions per minute. Fortunately the helicopter managed to pass the test, unlike several prior attempts.

The flight might be risky, as the helicopter has been untested for the most part. Even on its way to mars, Ingenuity boarded the Perseverance rover as it touched down in a region known as the “Jezero Crater.” Ingenuity itself is very small, only 19 inches tall and nearly 4 pounds in weight. Having as small a rover as Ingenuity is advantageous in providing a leap forward in human exploration of Mars by helping to navigate Mars’ surface, and viewing hard-to-reach areas that would be unachievable by larger vehicles. Another main purpose of the helicopter is to take aerial photos, powered by one solar panel located on the aircraft’s rotor blades. This method of power is energy efficient on Ingenuity, while it may be unsuitable for larger aircrafts. When I first heard of the launch, I was surprised to learn that the helicopter will only be flying to a height of 10 feet before landing 40 seconds later. The camera attached will take 30 photos of the ground every second while Ingenuity is midair. Meanwhile, the Perseverance rover is scheduled to watch from 16 feet away and attempt to capture the flight on camera.

Even though the flight is early in the morning, it is viewable live to the public! NASA’s Mars helicopter Ingenuity flight coverage will begins at 6:15 AM EDT on Monday, with a post-flight press conference at 2 PM EDT. You can watch the launch on television, as well as other social media platforms!

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