NASA’s helicopter on Mars, Ingenuity, has rotated propellers for the first time, during a test, ahead of the scheduled flight from Sunday night to Monday, the first from a robotic device on another planet.
“The helicopter is in good working order, in good health,” Tim Canham, in charge of creative operations, told a news conference on Friday.
“Last night (…) we made the propeller wheels very slowly and cautiously,” he declared.
The moment was captured by the Perseverance Robot, located a few meters away and carried in the helicopter after landing on Mars on February 18th.
NASA posted a very short video of the device, which looks a lot like a large drone – with the propellers turned on.
The US Space Agency announced that the first flight will be on Monday at 02:54 TMG (03:54 in Lisbon).
The first data should arrive on the ground on Monday at 08:15, Talaat Moustafa Group (another hour in Lisbon).
A live broadcast of NASA’s first data analysis teams will be visible on the space agency’s website.
The first flight will take 40 seconds in total, and the helicopter will only rise vertically, before hovering.
Tim Canham described: “We’ll take off, climb up to three meters, drive toward the car, take a picture and get off.”
NASA expects up to five flights, of increasing difficulty, in a period of one month.
Mi Ong, head of the helicopter project at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), said a final test of the propellers should be done today, this time “at full strength.”
Climbing Mars air is challenging, because it has a density equivalent to only 1% of Earth’s atmosphere.