The first alien helicopter is not yet going to fly around Mars. The unmanned aircraft was scheduled to make its first short flight on the red planet on the night from Sunday to Monday (Dutch time), but it has been postponed. A technical problem came to light during a rehearsal. A new take-off attempt will be made next Wednesday at the earliest.
The American Marshelicopter is called the Ingenuity. It was launched in July, as luggage in the cargo hold of the Marskarretje Perseverance (Volharding). Together they landed on Mars in mid-February. About a week ago, the Ingenuity was placed on the surface. The Ingenuity is nearly three feet high and weighs about 2 pounds.
In preparation for the first flight, flight control had the rotors of the helicopter rotated on Friday. Something went wrong in the code on board. The computer in the Ingenuity warned flight controllers that something was wrong. That is now being investigated. “The helicopter is safe and healthy and sent all the data to Earth,” said the US space agency NASA on Saturday.
The first flight was scheduled for Monday 04:54 AM Dutch time. The intention was that the Ingenuity would go to a height of a few meters in three seconds. He would linger there for 30 seconds, before landing in the same spot in a controlled manner. That first flight is a test. If it succeeds, the Marshelicopter can then fly around five times, each time a few hundred meters further. It will probably last about a month on Mars.
One of the tasks of the Ingenuity is to deal with the low air pressure on the surface of Mars. This can be compared to the pressure at an altitude of 30 kilometers 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 parts on board are exposed to temperatures of up to 90 degrees below zero.If the technology turns out to work on Mars, helicopters could help explore an alien destination much faster.