Speed Reads

the red planet

Watch NASA attempt history with test flight of remote-control Mars helicopter Ingenuity

NASA will attempt to fly a remote-control helicopter on Mars early Monday, aiming for humanity's first powered, controlled flight on another planet. The solar-powered lightweight helicopter, Ingenuity, hitched a ride to Mars on the belly of the Perseverance rover, which will help Ingenuity communicate with mission control and also record the test flight from about 330 feet away. NASA will try to get Ingenuity to rise to about 10 feet above the Martian surface, hover for about 20 seconds, then land back at its airfield in Jerezo Crater.

Ingenuity is the product of six years of work at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. This will be the second attempt to get it in the air, after a "watchdog" timer glitch forced NASA to call off an April 11 test flight. NASA successfully tested the rotors on Friday, and it has a plan and a backup plan for Monday's flight, wrote MiMi Aung, Ingenuity project manager at JPL. If Plan A doesn't work, Perseverance will send Ingenuity an update for its flight control software, putting off the test flight for several more days.

"Our team considers Monday's attempted first flight like a rocket launch: We're doing everything we can to make it a success, but we also know that we may have to scrub and try again," Aung wrote in an April 17 post. "In engineering, there is always uncertainty, but this is what makes working on advanced technology so exciting and rewarding. We have to continually innovate and develop solutions to new challenges. And we get to try things others have only dreamed of."

The test flight will commence at about 3:30 a.m. EDT, but the data and images won't reach Earth for another few hours. NASA's JPL will broadcast the flight starting at 6:15 a.m. EDT, and you can watch the livestream below. Peter Weber