Nasa is set to make history trying to launch a helicopter from the surface of Mars.
If successful, it will be the first powered and controlled flight on another planet.
In the demonstration, you need to see the Martian helicopter (called Ingenuity) rise to about 3m, hover for about 30 seconds, turn and then land.
However, with unprecedented technology and difficult flight conditions, it is difficult to make a successful flight.
“It definitely feels like nuts,” says Farah Alibay, a system engineer at Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Nasa.
“We have been flying on Earth for over 100 years, but now it seems like,” Yes, I’m going to another planet to fly. ” It’s crazy. But that’s the beauty of exploration. That is the beauty of. engineering. “
Ingenuity will lift off on Monday at 07:30 GMT (08:30 BST). The first data to determine if the chopper experiment worked should return to Earth after about 3 hours.
This information must be relayed via the Perseverance Rover in Nasa and the Moons of Mars and sent to JPL.
Where will the flight take place?
Perseverance Rover has landed in an area of the red planet called the Jezero Crater. During a dangerous descent on the surface of Mars in February, the robot carried a helicopter under it.
After that, Perseverance headed for the “runway”, about 20 meters away from the landing site, dropped his ingenuity on the ground, and took a selfie of the two.
Engineers say the helicopter looks good for its test flight. Recently, software patches have been installed and tested to address technical glitches, and now everything is ready for a big moment.
A full speed rotor run-up was held on Friday.
“We have fully confirmed that Ingenuity has enough energy and power to make this flight on Mars,” Ingenuity project manager MiMi Aung said at a pre-flight press conference.
If the flight is successful, four more flights will be attempted in the next few days, each carrying the helicopter further.
Why is it so difficult to fly on Mars?
The atmosphere on Mars is very thin (about 1% of the Earth’s density here), which gives the helicopter less air to “bite”.
The gravitational attraction of the Red Planet is low, which helps-but engineers still had to build their chopper very lightly. It weighs only 1.8 kg (4 lb).
The two 1.2 m long rotors rotate in opposite directions at up to 2,500 rpm. This is very fast. In fact, the tip of the rotor moves at about two-thirds the speed of sound on Mars. This should provide the ingenuity needs of the lift.
Nasa is on the lookout for Jezero’s wind. They can measure up to 20 meters per second, which is faster than those tested on Earth. But the team believes helicopters will deal with it.
What kind of image will be displayed?
Ingenuity has two cameras.
A black-and-white camera that points to the ground used for navigation, and a high-resolution color camera that overlooks the horizon.
The rover also snaps from a distance of about 65m. Try to get a close-up of the action using the zoom camera. If you’re lucky, you should be able to watch the video as well.
All of this also has complex issues. Both the rover and the helicopter function autonomously and carry separate clocks. Your timing device must be in sync for your photos to work.
Keyframes have already been selected to be preferentially returned on Monday’s data downlink. You have to wait to see if these were lucky choices.
“We’ve done that and hope everything works … but we know there’s a surprise,” said Uplink Operations Lead Elsa Jensen.
Why is this flight so important?
The US space agency states that the flight will be the “Wright Brothers’ Moment.” This is a reference to the flight of the first powered and controlled aircraft on Earth in 1903.
To mark the connection, a stamp-sized cloth from the wings of the brother’s plane was taped to Ingenuity before leaving Earth. It is worth noting that the Wright brothers’ first flight lasted only 12 seconds. Great things start with small steps.
We hope that this tiny tech demonstration will ultimately change the way we explore some distant worlds.
“Like land vehicles, you can cross places undisturbed by the terrain,” explains Harvard Grip, Chief Pilot of Ingenuity.
“We may perform reconnaissance missions for future rover or astronauts, and we also consider the possibility of carrying our own scientific equipment to places that are extremely difficult to access.”
Nasa has already approved a helicopter mission to Saturn’s moon Titan. It has a very rich atmosphere. As the mission is known, dragonflies, Should arrive at Titan in the mid-2030s.
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