If plans go as planned, tomorrow at this time we will already be celebrating a milestone in the history of space exploration: The Ingenuity helicopter will have been the first human-made device to fly on a planet other than Earth. And I don’t know about you, but these things continue to generate enormous illusion for me and make my hair stand on end. The space race has been stepping on the accelerator for a few years again and offering us historical moments, and that are much more transcendent than it may seem at first reading.
Since their separation from Perseverance on April 4, Ingenuity has been preparing for its first flight. He successfully made it through his first night out in the open (that is, without the protection offered by Perseverance), quite an achievement considering the characteristics of his Martian location. As we already told you then, a warm day in that region of Mars is comparable to a frigid one on Earth, and the Ingenuity may have to face temperatures that reach -90 degrees Celsius.
Although its first flight was initially scheduled for April 11, a software update and certain blade issues caused a delay in this operation. As we have already mentioned on other occasions, we are talking about a very complex operation, with the added bonus that, if a failure occurs, neither NASA nor anyone else will be able to provide assistance to Ingenuity. Everything must work perfectly before you start the flight and, from that moment, rely on science and engineering … well, and also a bit on luck.
If everything goes well, the Ingenuity flight is scheduled for 3.30 AM EDT, half past nine in the morning in mainland Spain, although this time the broadcast of the event will not be carried out live (understood direct, in this case, with the minutes of delay from when the signal leaves Mars until it reaches Earth). It will take a few hours for the flight data to reach our planet, at which point NASA will disseminate it.
To this end, the US space agency will initiate a live broadcast at 6.15am EDT (12.15am in Spain), a few minutes before the expected arrival of the first data. We do not know if the Ingenuity will only send telemetric data about its flight or, on the contrary, if we will already be able to enjoy some of the first images it captures with its camera. Obviously the latter is the most desirable, but even if it is only the former but the flight is a success, tomorrow will be a day to remember in the history books.
More information and images: NASA / JPL-Caltech