NASA to attempt first controlled flight on Mars

NASA is aiming to launch its first flight of Ingenuity Mars Helicopter at approximately 03:30 am Eastern Time Zone (EDT) on Monday, April 19.

In a press release, NASA said that data from the first flight will return to Earth, a few hours following the autonomous flight. The release from the agency said, “A live stream will begin at 6:15 am EDT, as the helicopter team receives the data downlink in the Spaceflight Operation Facility at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL)”. A post-flight briefing will be held at 2 pm in case the flight takes place as planned on April 19, the press release added. The original flight was supposed to take place on April 11 but the date was shifted as engineers worked on preflight checks and a solution to a command sequence issue.

As quoted in a report by ANI, the rover will provide support during flight operations, taking images, collecting environmental data, and hosting a base station that enables the helicopter to communicate with mission controllers on Earth.

The Ingenuity Mars Helicopter was built by JPL, which also manages the technology demonstration project for NASA headquarters in Washington. It is supported by NASA’s Science, Aeronautics, and Space technology mission directorates.

NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley and NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, provided important flight performance analysis and technical assistance. JPL is managed by Caltech in Pasadena, California, for NASA. It builds and manages the operations of the Ingenuity Helicopter. Before the four-pound rotorcraft can attempt its first flight, however, its teams must face a series of daunting challenges. Moreover, along with NASA’s Perseverance Mars Mission, the agency’s Soyuz Spacecraft touched down the Earth’s surface on Saturday, after completing more than six months in orbit.

A key objective of this mission is astrobiology, including the search for signs of ancient microbial life. The rover will assess the planet’s geology and past climate, paving the way for human exploration of the Red Planet, and also be the first mission to collect and cache Martian rock and dust.

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