back to article NASA's Mars helicopter spins up its blades ahead of hoped-for 12 April hover

The Ingenuity Mars Helicopter is set to take its first flight after engineers spun its blades up to 50rpm in preparation. The downlink from the first flight is due on 12 April at 0730 UTC (0330 ET) with a postflight briefing scheduled for 1500 UTC (1100 ET). The dates currently carry a "not earlier than" prefix as engineers …

  1. imanidiot Silver badge

    Fingers crossed

    It will be another massive achievement if they pull it off.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Fingers crossed

      Absolutely. It is mind-blowing to imagine that our species can prepare and program a remote drone to operate on another planet.

      Kudos to all boffins involved.

      1. TJ1
        Joke

        Re: Fingers crossed

        Someone warn Gatwick airport so they don't close due to 'reports' of UFOs!

    2. LDS Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Fingers crossed

      Sure, forty years ago they launched a a whole Space Shuttle. Now they have issue with a toy. On Mars, sure, but still a toy...

  2. Timbo

    What's to stop...

    ...the wind blowing it over and stopping it from flying, before it's first flight?

    As it sems to have been an oversight not to fit a "ring" around the rotor blades so if it does get blown over, the current design won't allow it to get back up again, as the blades won't be able to turn.

    If that happens, then maybe Percy can go back to Ingenuity and pick it up or give it a nudge so it is standing vertical again?

    And I really don't know why it will have taken until next Monday to fly...the rover landed on 18th February...so very nearly 2 months will have elapsed....yes, they need to do a system checkout, but they really need to pull their finger out...

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. mtp

      Re: What's to stop...

      The wind force on mars is tiny. It is has only 1% of the pressure that we experience so it would be like being blown over by a enraged butterfly

      1. Skiron

        Re: What's to stop...

        Yes, but it is a butterfly. It's a test and the design of it to be a stowaway rather than a passenger was the whole point - it's much like the first radio controlled helicopters you could buy from Maplins 15 years ago.

        The next one will be a proper drone after results and data gets returned on the Martian atmospheric conditions and gravity.

      2. JassMan Silver badge

        Re: What's to stop...

        The force of a storm is not in the local air pressure but in the wind speed times the mass of whatever it has picked up on the way. A kilogram of dust travelling at 100 Km/h will do as much damage on Mars as it will on Earth. Not all the erosion on Mars happened before it lost most of its atmosphere.

        1. jmch Silver badge

          Re: What's to stop...

          "A kilogram of dust travelling at 100 Km/h will do as much damage on Mars as it will on Earth"

          Yes, but the thinner Mars atmosphere means it's unlikely for winds to collect as much dust as the equivalent speed wind on Earth, no? It's an experimental prototype designed to work in optimal conditions, not the final thing designed to work in most conditions

    3. HildyJ Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: What's to stop... Misconceptions

      A ring - If you've read the coverage, you'd know that Ingenuity was carried to Mars on it's side, with its rotors folded, and protected by a metal shield. None of these would allow for a ring around the rotors.

      Blown over - The pressure that Martian wind can exert on Ingenuity won't knock it over. However, flying in a wind might be problematic (they don't really know). Hence the significance of the first weather report.

      Time - As slow as it seems (especially in lockdown), you don't get Martian do-overs.Steps are done in order and the results of each step are analyzed before the next step is taken.

      A pint to the boffins who designed it and who operate it. Good luck.

      1. Stevie Silver badge

        Re: What's to stop... Misconceptions

        Well, I may be a bluff old cove with a hairstyle you could hide a badger in but even I can figure a way of folding a rotor protection ring so it can fold flat for transit and spring open "reverse gin trap" style for deployment.

        I own small helicopters. I reckon the fear is not unreasonable and let's not forget that there is no-one to step over and tip the thing upright if it should come down at speed and "trip".

        Because we don't send people to Mars in the post Von Braun word, we send roombas.

        8o)

        1. werdsmith Silver badge

          Re: What's to stop... Misconceptions

          I don’t suppose they were so busy adorning the rover vehicle with camera that they forgot to put a robotic arm on the rover?

          Seriously. I don’t know why NASA bother recruiting their highly trained and educated engineers when they could just ask on the register forums and be told where they are going wrong.

        2. EricB123

          Re: What's to stop... Misconceptions

          You mean to say we're trying to vacuum the dust off the surface of Mars? Who will empty the dust compartment each day?

        3. tfb Silver badge
          Boffin

          Re: What's to stop... Misconceptions

          The ring is mass. The support structure for the ring is mass (probably more mass than the ring). The magic unfolding structure for the ring and support structure is mass and complexity. Mass is something you first need to send to Mars and then need to lift in the Martian atmosphere. Complexity is risk. As it stands, Ingenuity is right at the limit of what is possible on Mars: the tip speed of the blades is subsonic by just enough to be safe, the battery can keep it in the air for a few tens of seconds and is just up to keeping it warm at night. They considered using aerogel for insulation but decided they could get away without it because mass. Mass of aerogel.

          Experience of flying helicopters on Earth is relevant for doing the same on Mars in roughly the sense that experience flying a glider is relevant for getting a spacecraft through reentry: it is relevant, but only slightly.

    4. tfb Silver badge
      Alien

      Re: What's to stop...

      Gosh, yes: all those people who have just managed to land a robot on Mars for the second time don't at all know what they're doing, do they? They should just be working faster instead of just lying around all day, which is certainly what they have been doing all this time. Of course it is.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: What's to stop...

        "second" time?

        (Upvoted for the sentiment, if not the factual accuracy :-))

        1. tfb Silver badge

          Re: What's to stop...

          Yes: Curiosity and now Perseverance, which are very closely related (I think but am not sure that Perseverance may even be using flight spares from Curiosity). I realise there have been other rovers of course: what I meant was that this group of people have now done the same astonishing trick twice and it's reasonably safe to assume they are wuite competent. I should have been clearer, sorry.

          1. GraXXoR

            Re: What's to stop...

            Spirit and Opportunity: Are we a joke to you?

            1. tfb Silver badge
              Boffin

              Re: What's to stop...

              Obviously not, and also not Sojourner. Spirit and Opportunity were similar to each other but very, very different from Curiosity & Perseverance which also were similar to each other. Skycrane not airbag, RTG not solar, more than five times the mass, etc. It's that latter pair of robots I was talking about, and really particularly the skcrane which is a deeply astonishing trick to pull off, twice.

    5. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: I really don't know

      Indeed, you don't.

      So sit back, chill, and wait for the people who know what they're doing to do it.

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What's to stop...

      Because the air is so thin, the blades will have to spin really fast just to generate enough lift to get it off the ground. Wind hitting stationary blades is probably not comparable.

  3. Dom 3
    Pint

    "yes, they need to do a system checkout, but they really need to pull their finger out..." Not like there'd be any pressure from the scientists waiting to get going with the rover, eh?

    Beer because the pubs are (semi-)opening that day.

    1. EricB123

      "Beer because the pubs are (semi-)opening that day."

      In outer space, the virus can't be transmitted.

      Hey! How about a giant vacuum pump for Earth.?

      1. Daedalus Silver badge

        In space, nobody can hear you sneeze.

  4. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
    Joke

    Gatwick

    Should Gatwick Airport and Sussex Police be given advanced notification of the flight of the drone - just in case they misunderstand the reports of the drone flight and close down the airfield

  5. Eclectic Man Silver badge

    5m ceiling

    I was a bit disappointed that it is expected only to fly as high as 5m above the Martian surface, as I was hoping it would fly over Perseverance and take a pic of it. At a maximum altitude of 4m above the lander, NASA is unlikely to allow that as dust and any malfunction could write them both off in one accident.

    Still, really looking forward to the first flight and the pictures from an airborne vehicle on another planet.

    1. tfb Silver badge

      Re: 5m ceiling

      It's not going to fly anywhere near Perseverance. In particular it's not going to fly anywhere where any plausible event would let it hit Perseverance, so not over it, however high it is.

      1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

        Re: 5m ceiling

        Come Fly With Me

        Don't StandFly So Close To Me

        1. Eclectic Man Silver badge
          Coat

          Re: 5m ceiling

          Maybe if it flies too close to Perseverance it will be zapped by the laser weapon (sorry, experiment) to check that Persey can defend itself again the Martian hordes?

          I'llget my coat, it's the one with the ultra 4K Director's cut of '2001-A Space Odyssey' in the pocket.

  6. Ashto5

    Love it

    This will be amazing if it works imagine being able to fly over Mars

    Wow

    1. sitta_europea Silver badge

      Re: Love it

      <quote>This will be amazing if it works imagine being able to fly over Mars</quote>

      "Right down the middle of the road!"

      (I listened to that, as it happened. It just keeps getting better. :)

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nothing there....

    Great, pics of rocks 5m away...

    1. tfb Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: Nothing there....

      Yes, pictures of terrain from above which, in future, may allow rovers to be much more adventurous and both explore places faster and go places they may not otherwise be able to go for fear of getting stuck. And,you know, perhaps find life or its traces, which would be the greatest scientific discovery if the 21st century.

      But to you it's all just boring rocks, right? Because your mind is incapable of wonder or imagination and you live in a grey, boring world. Well, I'd feel sorry for you, because that must be a horrible existence (although you won't know that because, lacking an imagination, you won't be able to conceive what it's like to have one). But I don't feel sorry for you, because you turn up in the comment section of every article about space exploration to post the same depressing comment. What the fuck is wrong with you? If you find space exploration boring stop commenting on articles about it already.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Nothing there....

        > "If you find space exploration boring stop commenting on articles about it already."

        Is that really what they're doing though?

        All they will discover is more pictures of rocks.

        Has it occurred to you that there might be more valuable projects than this kind of showboating?

        1. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

          Re: Nothing there....

          Like what, another BLM protest?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Nothing there....

            > "Like what, another BLM protest?"

            That might well improve the world more than a picture of a rock would.

            1. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

              Re: Nothing there....

              "That might well improve the world more than a picture of a rock would."

              Sure it will. Keep funding the machine.

              https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2021/apr/10/black-lives-matters-patrisse-cullors-ripped-for-bu/

              1. tfb Silver badge
                Alien

                Re: Nothing there....

                I don't want to get into politics, but it's worth noting perhaps that the Washington Times is owned by the Unification Movement – the Moonies in other words and

                Throughout its history, The Washington Times has been known for its conservative political stance, supporting the policies of Republican presidents Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, George W. Bush, and Donald Trump. It has published many columns which reject the scientific consensus on climate change, on ozone depletion, and on the harmful effects of second-hand smoke. It has drawn controversy for publishing racist content including conspiracy theories about U.S. President Barack Obama, supporting neo-Confederate historical revisionism. [from Wikipedia]

                That doesn't mean there's nothing wrong with the BLM movement: it does mean that what the Washington Times writes about it is ... let's just say not entirely reliable?

                Well, I've been drawn far enough.

                1. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

                  Re: Nothing there....

                  Fair enough. How's this.

                  https://nypost.com/2021/04/10/inside-blm-co-founder-patrisse-khan-cullors-real-estate-buying-binge/

                  https://www.the-sun.com/news/2675013/na-patrisse-khan-cullors-houses/

                  https://finance.yahoo.com/news/black-lives-matter-founder-patrisse-001000383.html

                  https://www.theblaze.com/news/investigation-demanded-black-lives-matter-co-founder-real-estate

            2. tfb Silver badge
              Alien

              Re: Nothing there....

              It might do. But somehow I manage to both support BLM (in practical, not just theoretical ways) and be really interested in the really excellent science being done on Mars. And amazingly enough I also manage to follow things being done at LIGO and the EHT as well.

              Humans can do more than one thing: who knew?

              1. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

                Re: Nothing there....

                Differentiating here of course from the principle that Black lives do matter (the origins are genuine, honorable and founded on absolute necessity), the fact remains that the BLM movement itself is a con. A politically motivated, corrupt monstrosity just like Extinction Rebellion.

                1. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

                  Re: Nothing there....

                  Well you've certainly convinced me!

                  Everyone back home folks, it's back to the drawing board. Try not to get shot by the police on the way home - I realise a few more of you will be dead by the time we have this figured out properly, but it's important that we figure out how to remove the political aspect from the, er, the non-political thing that we're doing, before we go any further.

        2. John Robson Silver badge

          Re: Nothing there....

          "All they will discover is more pictures of rocks."

          Really - in the same way that if you break your arm they won't bother with an XRay, because "all they'll discover is more pictures of bones"

        3. tfb Silver badge
          Mushroom

          Re: Nothing there....

          What you mean is 'all I can understand of what they have and will discover is 'pictures or rocks', because I am too ill-educated and lazy to actually find out what they really are discovering, and hence can only look at the imagery with my dull, lifeless eyes and see 'pictures of rocks'. All pure science, to me, is 'pictures of rocks'. Because I live my life in a grey meaningless world, and I want everyone else to do the same.'

    2. DarkwavePunk

      Re: Nothing there....

      "Nothing there".

      I've never quite understood this statement. What exactly is the "Thing" that is of the class "No"? I mean we've got scientific instruments on another planet. There's a lot of geomorphological, atmospheric and many other bits of information this mission can provide. Including flying a fucking helicopter on another planet.

      Please tell me the magic "Thing" I should be looking out for just in case I'm accidentally curious about the universe and stray into the realm of "No".

      1. Eclectic Man Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: Nothing there....

        I think that Mars counts as a member of Bertrand Russell's set of 'not teapots'.

        Lord Russell used this set to show that a set may be member of itself and then went on to demonstrate a contradiction in naive Set Theory, by having a set of sets which are not elements of themselves. If this set is an element of itself, then it is not, and if it is not an element of itself it is. This helped pave the way for serious axiomatic set theory to take over from naive (i.e., non-axiomatic) set theory.

        I am really excited by the prospect of airborne exploration of another planet. The autonomous flight computer and guidance systems will be a good test for the submarine they hope to send to the seas of Titan. Just hope I live long enough to enjoy that too.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Nothing there....

        > "Nothing there".

        > I've never quite understood this statement

        Perhaps consider what the "thing" that is there is instead.

        That would be a rock, and this will get a photograph of it from about 5m away.

        1. werdsmith Silver badge

          Re: Nothing there....

          If my imagination were that dead to see this amazing science as “a photo of a rock”, I doubt I would want to live on.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Nothing there....

            > "If my imagination were that dead to see this amazing science as “a photo of a rock”, I doubt I would want to live on."

            Soon you will see an actual photo of a rock, and won't need to imagine any longer.

            It's really not "science" either. it's not finding anything out, it's just showboating.

            1. werdsmith Silver badge

              Re: Nothing there....

              You are missing great things. Sad.

            2. Stoneshop Silver badge
              Boffin

              Re: Nothing there....

              it's not finding anything out,

              Oh really? Perhaps finding out that one can actually fly a helicopter in as thin an atmosphere as Mars has, autonomously and if all goes well, repeatedly, with that "photo of a rock from 5m up" just as icing on the cake?

              The rock you have for a brain is clearly not worth photographing, from any distance.

        2. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

          Re: Nothing there....

          "Perhaps consider what the "thing" that is there is instead.

          That would be a rock, and this will get a photograph of it from about 5m away."

          The 'thing' is never a rock. It's what the rock represents. This could be anything from helping us to understand better how our universe works, to figuring out where we can best dig on the Martian surface in order to build an underground habitat in the future, to finding an alternate home for Humanity if you believe - and I'm absolutely certain you do - that climate change is real and potentially catastrophic.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Nothing there....

            No matter how bad climate change gets, Earth will always be more habitable than Mars because of it's distance from the Sun. There is no possible scenario where it would be advantageous to send all of humanity to go and live in a bunker on Mars when you could just build a bunker for them on Earth.

            1. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

              Re: Nothing there....

              There are a number of possible scenarios where it would be advantageous to send all of (what's left of) humanity to go and live on Mars. It's happened several times before.

              Note that 'possible' doesn't mean 'likely'. Google Extinction Event for more of an idea.

            2. Geoff Campbell
              Mushroom

              Re: Nothing there....

              That rather depends on the actions and reactions of the various nation states in the face of climate change.

              In an extreme worst-case scenario, dwindling resources and growing populations could easily trigger WW3, and I for one would rather be watching that from a bunker on Mars than a bunker on Earth.

              Of course, that rather presupposes that the bunker on Mars is self-sufficient, which is going to take a while to achieve.

              GJC

        3. GraXXoR

          Re: Nothing there....

          Here we have an example of someone who thinks scientific advances are born fully formed in their final state.

          Everything starts with tentative steps. Everything develops on the shoulders and the hard work of others.

          You have to learn to take off before you can fly and you have to reach 1m before you can reach 1km.

          Let's put this into perspective: Ingenuity was basically a "freebie" or demo, if you prefer, literally tacked on to the body of Perseverence.

          It's a blue skies project ... no scratch that, a red skies project... to test out the concepts of remote deployment and most importantly, a feasibility test for a completely new method of locomotion.

          After all, spirit and opportunity could only reach a top speed of 5cm per second...

          Flying, even an 1kph would be a massive comparative boost in mobility and capability.

          Remember the Wright Brothers? In just 120 years since, humans have gone from the first ever tentative HTA vehicle flight to the first ever flight of a human designed craft ON ANOTHER PLANET...

          I find myself moved every time I consider that...

  8. Tom 7 Silver badge

    Sqweeee!

    That is all.

  9. Geoff May (no relation)
    1. Fred Dibnah

      Re: There has been a change in plan

      I’m glad about that. April 12th is for the Russians.

  10. stuartnz
    Pint

    Boring? DEATH says otherwise

    "HUMAN BEINGS MAKE LIFE SO INTERESTING. DO YOU KNOW, THAT IN A UNIVERSE SO FULL OF WONDERS, THEY HAVE MANAGED TO INVENT BOREDOM"

    Flying a freakin' drone from 12,583,588,262.0564 brontosaurii away - that is JUST AMAZING! Yes, the world's a helluva mess, and just down the road from Mission Control, the bridges, roads and other basic infrastructure are all falling apart, but still, this deserves applause, and at least 2 Olympic Swimming Pools of beer

  11. Phil Kingston

    Please tell me it's got a cool callsign.

    1. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

      Even if it's just called Mars Helicopter 1; that's still freaking cool.

      1. AdamT

        "Red One, standing by"

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