The first alien helicopter isn‘t going to fly around on Mars for now. The unmanned aircraft would make its first short flight on the red planet the night from Sunday to Monday (Dutch time), but it has been postponed. At a rehearsal, a technical problem came to light. At the earliest next Wednesday, another attempt is made to take off.
The American Marshelikopter is called the Ingenuity. It was launched in July, as luggage in the cargo hold of the Marskarretje Perseverance (Perseverance). Together they landed on Mars in mid-February. About a week ago, the Ingenuity was deposited on the surface. The Ingenuity is almost a meter high and weighs about 2 kilos.
In preparation for the first flight, the flight line turned the rotors of the helicopter on Friday. In addition, something went wrong in the code on board. The computer at the Ingenuity warned the flight control that something was wrong. It’s being sorted out. “The helicopter is safe and healthy and sent all the data to Earth,” the US space agency NASA announced Saturday.
Short first flight
The first flight was scheduled for Monday 04.54 a.m. Dutch time. The Ingenuity was supposed to go to a height of several meters in three seconds. There he would hang for 30 seconds, and then he would land at the same spot controlled. That first flight is a test. If it succeeds, the Marshelikopter can fly around five times, several hundred meters away. He‘ll probably last for about a month on Mars.
The Ingenuity has to deal with the low air pressure on the surface of Mars. It can be compared to the pressure at 30 kilometers altitude on Earth. Earth helicopters can’t fly that high. Charging the batteries is also difficult, Mars gets about half of the solar energy on Earth during the day. At night, the components on board are exposed to temperatures up to 90 degrees below zero.
If the technology turns out to work on Mars, helicopters can help to explore an alien destination much faster.