NASA has been working hard to get the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter prepared for its first controlled flight on the Red Planet. The helicopter ran into some issues that prevented it from having its maiden voyage into the sky of Mars earlier this month. NASA has worked out all those software issues, and that helicopter is now ready for its test flight.
NASA is currently targeting the flight for no earlier than Monday, April 19, at approximately 3:30 AM EDT. Data from the flight will return to earth a few hours after the autonomous flight takes place. NASA has announced that it will begin a livestream of the events at 6:15 AM EDT as the helicopter prepares to receive the downlink data from the Space Flight Operations Facility at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Anyone interested in watching the events can do so on NASA television, the NASA app, its website, and various social media platforms. Assuming the flight takes place today, a post-flight briefing is scheduled for 2 PM EDT. NASA had originally planned a flight date of April 11, but that date shifted as engineers conducted preflight checks and developed a solution for the command sequence issue that prevented the initial flight from happening.
The Perseverance Rover is on standby to provide support during flight operations and will take images, collect environmental data, and host the base station enabling the helicopter to communicate with controllers on Earth. Ingenuity represents a new method of exploring Mars in the future, assuming the test flight goes well.
Being able to explore Mars from the air opens up a much larger exploration area for future missions. Whether or not controlled flight on another planet works remains to be seen, but it appears that we will know for sure sometime today.