NASA’s Mars helicopter ‘Ingenuity’ opened its blades on Thursday in anticipation of its first flight, which is scheduled for April 11. The robotic helicopter is a technology demonstration to test powered flight on another world for the first time, the US space agency said.
The NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory said on Twitter, “Next, the team will spin up the rotor blades for the first time (to a speed below what would be needed for flight) while still on the surface.”
“Mind-bottling, isn't it?”
The blades of glory, aka rotor blades of the #MarsHelicopter, have been unlocked and are ready for testing. Next, we’ll do a slow-speed spin-up of the blades for the first time on the Martian surface. https://t.co/TNCdXWcKWE pic.twitter.com/ZUTHRGFGia
— NASA JPL (@NASAJPL) April 8, 2021
Named by an Indian-origin teen, Ingenuity was attached to the Perseverance rover and was launched on July 30 last year. The rover landed near the Jezero Crater on Mars on February 18 but Ingenuity detached from the rover only on April 4.
Ingenuity took a colored photo of the rugged Mars terrain while still affixed to Perseverance. The photo shows the wheel of the rover on the back.
Two bots, one selfie. Greetings from Jezero Crater, where I’ve taken my first selfie of the mission. I’m also watching the #MarsHelicopter Ingenuity as it gets ready for its first flight in a few days. Daring mighty things indeed.
— NASA's Perseverance Mars Rover (@NASAPersevere) April 7, 2021
As Perseverance drives over to the Van Zyl Overlook, the solar-powered Ingenuity will attempt its first flight. The location has been named after Jakob van Zyl, a team leader at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, who passed away in August last year.
From that location, Perseverance will capture the Ingenuity’s flight on its high-resolution MastCam-Z camera system and even try to record audio through its two microphones, a feat which has not been achieved yet.
I’ve driven about halfway to my overlook point, where I’ll watch the #MarsHelicopter’s flight test from a distance of about 200 feet (~60 meters).
I’ll have zoom cameras focused on the flight. Meanwhile, you can see Ingenuity centered in these views from my navigation cameras. pic.twitter.com/fmmgJRLIVg
— NASA's Perseverance Mars Rover (@NASAPersevere) April 9, 2021
Supported by its light body, the helicopter’s propellers will spin swiftly to compensate for the thin Martian atmosphere. This experiment of powered flight outside Earth’s orbit will be carried out over a month. The results of Ingenuity’s flight will contribute toward further research on how to bring humanity to Mars one day.
According to NASA, the testing will happen through incremental stages. Its first flight will include hovering over a few feet for half a minute. But the distance, altitude, and duration will slowly increase throughout the demonstration till the team is satisfied.
After recording the first-ever powered flight, Perseverance will set out on its own mission, which is to collect signs of life in the ancient but long dried waterbed of Jezero before returning to Earth by the next decade.