June 23, 2021

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The Mars Helicopter Intelligence is scheduled to fly for the first time Monday

The Mars Helicopter Intelligence is scheduled to fly for the first time Monday

The Mars helicopter is ready to go ingenious. At 9:31 a.m. CEST this Monday, NASA will test the first motor-powered, controlled aircraft on another planet. “We hope the helicopter can take off from the surface of Mars at this time,” writes Ingenious Project Manager Mimi Ang, “but this is a test, and we are prepared for it not to happen.”

The ingenuity is not designed to take long flights to collect large amounts of data. Rather, it is a test. The Martian atmosphere is thin, requiring very fast rotor revolutions, which consume more power. The batteries have to survive on very cold nights and can only be charged using solar cells. All of these result in low altitude and range.

In fact, the device should have flown the previous Sunday. However, a monitoring program canceled the test of the rotors. Due to this problem of flight testing, the Mars helicopter ingenuity had to postpone the first flight. The team in charge quickly found the error in a command line and intelligently found a solution to the software problem quickly. Some additional commands, including reinstalling flight control software, should have helped as much as possible in 85 percent of cases.

“We also know that these commands can be retried if the first attempt on Monday did not work,” Ang says. “Even if the first attempt is not made, there is a high probability that more attempts will be made in the coming days.” At the same time, NASA experts developed a second, more comprehensive solution. To this end, the software for controlling the aircraft was changed. NASA has already diligently modified this new version of software from Mars Rover, but it has not yet been cleverly installed.

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First, it will be clear by noon whether the minor correction is sufficient. It will take some time to spread the data from Mars. Presumably at 12:15, NASA will launch a “live broadcast” from Mars. A conference will follow at 8 p.m., during which NASA experts will answer questions about the ingeniously attempted aircraft.

First attempt at flight

NASA’s Mars helicopter is being attempted for the first time.


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