NASA’s first flight on another planet
Copter set for historic take-off
NASA’S Mars helicopter is ready to make history – the first controlled flight on another planet – after overcoming a technical glitch.
Tiny rotor craft Ingenuity is due to make its maiden flight on Wednesday.
The 49cm-tall copter arrived at the Red Planet’s Jezero crater in February 18.
Its 300 million-mile journey inside the Perseverance rover took eight months.
Take-off had been scheduled for last week but was delayed after a technical issue during a test of the rotors.
NASA explained: “During a high-speed spin test of the rotors on Friday, the command sequence controlling the test ended early due to a ‘watchdog timer expiration’. This occurred as it was trying to transition the flight computer from ‘Pre-Flight’ to ‘Flight’ mode.
“The helicopter is safe and healthy and communicated its full telemetry set to Earth. The watchdog timer oversees the command sequence and alerts the system to any potential issues.
“It helps the system stay safe by not proceeding if an issue is observed and worked as planned.”
After Perseverance landed, it dropped the drone to the ground so the aircraft could prepare for its maiden flight.
NASA says Ingenuity is intended as a technology demonstration and carries no instrumentation. The craft, 1.8kg on Earth but 680g in Mars’s lower gravity, will hover at three metres for 20-30 seconds. Challenges NASA faced when designing Ingenuity included Martian temperatures of -90C and air 100 times thinner than Earth’s. If successful, NASA says it will be a “major milestone” – the very first powered flight on another world. The space agency has called it a “Wright brothers moment” and attached a stamp-sized piece of the aviation pioneers’ 1903 plane wing to Ingenuity.