the red planet
April 19, 2021

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

February 22, 2021

Last week, NASA released some remarkable photos of its Perseverance rover landing on Mars, and the agency upped its game even more Monday when it unveiled an unprecedented video of the historic event.

NASA's Al Chen, the lead of the mission's Entry, Descent, and Landing team, provided a brief breakdown of the footage, which he called "the stuff of our dreams."

Additionally, NASA released an audio clip of some of the first Martian sounds captured by Perseverance's microphone.

As for the rest of the mission, NASA's scientists are starting to dig through and analyze a "fire hose" of images captured by Perseverance as it make its initial observations. Tim O'Donnell

February 19, 2021

NASA has revealed some brand new, awe-inspiring images from its Perseverance rover mission following a historic landing.

The Perseverance rover successfully landed on Mars on Thursday as part of a mission to search for signs of ancient life on the red planet, and on Friday, NASA released some new images from the mission. Among them was one taken during the landing; as NASA explains, "while NASA's Mars Curiosity rover sent back a stop-motion movie of its descent, Perseverance's cameras are intended to capture video of its touchdown and this new still image was taken from that footage."

According to CNBC's Michael Sheetz, this is actually the first time NASA has ever "captured images of a spacecraft landing on another planet," and engineer Aaron Stehura during a Friday news conference said the team was "awestruck" after getting this photo back.

"This is something that we've never seen before," Stehura said. "It was stunning, and the team was awestruck. There was just a feeling of victory that we were able to capture these and share it with the world."

Indeed, Katie Stack Morgan, Perseverance deputy project scientist, said it was "incredible" seeing the photo, explaining, "We're used to the engineers showing us animations of the rover, and that's at first what I thought this was, and then I did a double take and said, 'That's the actual rover!'"

NASA also revealed the first color image from Perseverance, which NASA's Hallie Gengl noted is "really high resolution compared to what we've seen before on other previous missions." Another picture showed the rover's front right wheel on the planet's surface.

NASA expects to have more images ready for Monday, with Stehura noting, "We're all chomping at the bit." Brendan Morrow

July 22, 2014

If you can't make it to Mars, Hawaii is the next big thing.

On Friday, the second Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation mission (Hi-SEAS 2) will come to an end on Hawaii's Mauna Loa volcano. On March 28, six crew members went there to live in a 36-foot wide, solar-powered structure meant to mimic a "Mars habitat," Space.com reports. During their four months on "Mars," the crew worked on improving space walks, looked at how plants grow under different wavelengths of light, and even took treks in fake spacesuits, the only time they left their home.

(Facebook/Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation)

The point of Hi-SEAS is to "test what will be necessary for future astronauts to live on the surface of Mars for an extended period of time," Cmd. Casey Steadman, an officer in the U.S. Air Force Reserve, wrote in a blog post. "The challenges future human missions to Mars will face are not easily duplicated on Earth. But through careful planning, analog studies can simulate some [of] the factors in order to better prepare us." Catherine Garcia

See More Speed Reads