Livestream on the Mars helicopter starts now. IT FLEW!

April 19, 2021 • 5:15 am

UPDATE: Everything appears to have been copacetic: the flight was successful and there are even photographs from the rover.  First is a photo from the Ingenuity showing its shadow on Mars, and the second is a photo from the Rover showing the Ingenuity in the air!

According to the NYT, the Mars helicopter Ingenuity, which weighs only about four pounds, has already attempted its first flight, but we don’t yet know the results as they must be transmitted to Earth. I’m posting this at 5:15 Eastern time, when that data and perhaps video on the flight are supposed to start arriving. The first go will be a short hop, only about 30 seconds long, and the video link is at the bottom. Given the thinness of Mars’s atmosphere (offset a bit by its lower gravity), this feat has been compared to flying a helicopter at an Earth altitude of 100,000 feet—something that’s never been done.

A gif of the Ingenuity (courtesy NASA/JPL CalTech):

From the paper:

At the Ingenuity site on Mars, which is within an ancient crater named Jezero, it will be the middle of the day, about 12:30 p.m. local Mars solar time. (The time zones on the red planet don’t have names, yet.)

For people on Earth, that translates to about 3:30 a.m. Eastern time on Monday. But no one on Earth will know for hours whether the flight has succeeded or failed, or if anything has happened at all. Neither Ingenuity nor Perseverance will be in contact with NASA at that time.

Instead, the two spacecraft will conduct the flight autonomously, executing commands that were sent to them on Sunday. Later, Perseverance will send data back to Earth via a spacecraft orbiting Mars.

NASA TV will begin broadcast from the control room at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory beginning at 6:15 a.m. Eastern time as the data starts arriving on Earth. You can watch it on NASA’s website.

I’ve put the NASA YouTube feed below:

Additional information will be provided at a news conference at 2 p.m. Eastern time on Monday.

Click below to watch, and fingers crossed. Look how young all the kids are in the helicopter control room!

The Wikipedia article on Ingenuity gives a lot of useful information, and the most poignant piece is this:

Ingenuity carries a piece of fabric from the wing of the 1903 Wright Flyer, the Wright Brothers‘ airplane, humanity’s first controlled powered flight on Earth.

Can you imagine how the Wright brothers would have reacted had they been told 118 years ago that part of their own plane would be flying on Mars?

16 thoughts on “Livestream on the Mars helicopter starts now. IT FLEW!

  1. You just beat me to it. Thanks for the update. I am trained not to access weit until 7:30 eastern time though i am usually up an hour earlier. I guess that I should always check earlier for breaking news. This is an excellent engineering accomplishment by the lasses and lads at jpl and their other nasa colleagues.

      1. Hmmm. I thought that i had subscribed a couple of years ago when i think you were trying to get to 50k subscribers. In any case i check the site several times most days when i have some time to read any new posts and comments. I think the kids look young for three reasons: 1. The ARE young because jpl hires lots of fresh out sharp twenty-somethings who are generally available in silicon valley; 2. The stay looking young because of a healthy california outdoor lifestyle; 3. A number of these kids are a bit nomadic and entrepreneurial, moving from one exciting opportunity to another after an interesting project is completed with jpl constantly updating its hopper with new young folks. But somebody from jpl could confirm or deny this which was my sense in working with them and ames research center about twenty years ago.

      2. Because they haven’t yet learned that it can’t be done. For interplanetary values of “it”.

    1. I can’t get over how young the engineers are. They could be my grand children. 🥺
      Indeed a great accomplishment. I was the photo taken from the chopper looking down at it’s shadow, then the video of the thing rising up 3 feet, hovering, and then landing. Congratulations to NASA JPL.

    1. The sun’s power on Mars is more than half that on Earth so battery charging isn’t that slow.

      One thing I’d be interested to know is how they were able to test Ingenuity on Earth. It’s relatively easy to reproduce the Mars atmosphere on Earth. I know JPL has a facility for doing that. The hardest part is reproducing the gravity. I doubt they tried the helicopter in the Vomit Comet or anything like that. What things did they have to leave as untestable?

      1. Just to jog your memory on the astronauts preparation for maneuvering/landing and walking in 1/6 g on the moon, they had two main simulators: 1. a 300 foot high gantry crane with cables that extended to the lunar lander mock up and a rig like a telephone booth that the astronaut used to practice walking. The cables took 5/6 g of the load; and 2. The “flying bedstead”, a free-flying contraption that looked like a bedframe which had a set of rockets to off load 5/6 g. As i recall, these test pilots hated the gantry rig and preferred the wild and unstable free flying bedstead. But that was for humans who were used to earth’s gravity. This little guy has no such preconceptions of its environment.

  2. From the first powered flight on Earth to the first on another planet in just 118 years is pretty impressive. Like our host, I think Wilbur and Orville would be astonished at part of their airplane being a part of such an achievement.

  3. I love that a Wright brothers’ piece of aircraft is up there…UP? This robot is the ultimate swiss-army-knife of planetary exploration.

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