Ingenuity ready for historic first flight on Mars


Ginny & Percy together on Mars! NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover took a selfie with the Ingenuity helicopter, seen here about 13 feet (3.9 meters) from the rover. This mosaic, comprised of more than 50 images, was taken by the WATSON camera on the rover’s robotic arm on Sol 46, April 6, 2021. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS/Ken Kremer

NASA’s Perseverance rover has just snapped her first-ever selfie on Mars this week on April 6, or Sol 46 — as well as its also being the first joint selfie with the experimental Ingenuity Mars helicopter on the Red Planet — and it is truly spectacular.

Ahead of humanity’s history-making first controlled test flight by an aircraft beyond Earth targeted for Sunday, April 11, Ginny and Percy (nicknames for Ingenuity and Perseverance) are seen together about 13 feet (4 meters) apart in mosaics taken on April 6, 2021, the 46th Martian day, or sol, of the mission.

The goal is to conduct a history-making ‘Wright Brothers’ first flight moment with the agency’s experimental craft on Mars – aiming to make the first attempt at powered, controlled flight of an aircraft on another planet. Data and imagery from the flight attempt should be relayed back on Earth the next day.

And Ginny has to do all that in the ultra-thin Martian atmosphere that is less than 1% as dense as Earth’s.

NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover took a selfie with the Ingenuity helicopter, seen here about 13 feet (3.9 meters) from the rover. Ingenuity rests between the rover’s wheel tracks. Jezero Crater is visible on the horizon. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS/Ken Kremer

NASA’s experimental solar-powered Ingenuity Mars Helicopter has safely survived its first several frigid Martian nights standing alone and all on its own power overnight on Monday, April 5, Sol 44, after being safely deployed to the ‘Martian Flight Field’ on Sunday, April 4, and carefully dropped from the attach point on the belly of the Perseverance rover where its been hanging this past week after completing the methodical step by step unfolding, swing down and deployment of all four graphite composite landing legs

“This is the first time that Ingenuity has been on its own on the surface of Mars,” said MiMi Aung, Ingenuity project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, in a statement.

All four landing legs are seen deployed after the unfurling of the Ingenuity helicopter was completed on Sol 39 (March 30, 2021) with the copter hanging from an attachment point on the belly of the Perseverance rover. This Sol 39 mosaic is comprised of eight color raw images taken by Sherloc Watson camera on the robot arm. Credit: NASA/JPL/Ken Kremer

“But we now have confirmation that we have the right insulation, the right heaters, and enough energy in its battery to survive the cold night, which is a big win for the team. We’re excited to continue to prepare Ingenuity for its first flight test.”

For the first time in history, an aircraft from Earth rests on the soil of the Red Planet – and it survived the nights to live on!  And that’s truly a magnificent thought to behold!

Now the team needs to continue testing and checkouts all this week. The release of the rotor blades, a key milestone, was achieved on April 7.

Here is NASA’s schedule of events so you can follow along as the #MarsHelicopter is nearly ready to take off. Join the ride on nasa.gov/live

  • April 12: First flight data downlink, 12:30 am PT/3:30 am ET
  • April 12: Postflight briefing, 8 am PT/11 am ET,

According to NASA, once the team is ready to attempt the first flight, Perseverance will receive and relay to Ingenuity the final flight instructions from JPL mission controllers. Several factors will determine the precise time for the flight, including modeling of local wind patterns informed by measurements taken by the MEDA (Mars Environmental Dynamics Analyzer) instrument aboard Perseverance. Ingenuity will run its rotors to 2,537 rpm and, if all final self-checks look good, lift off. After climbing at a rate of about 3 feet per second (1 meter per second), the helicopter will hover at 10 feet (3 meters) above the surface for up to 30 seconds. Then, Ingenuity will descend and touch back down on the Martian surface.

This image shows where NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter team will attempt its test flights. Helicopter engineers added the locations for the rover landing site (also known as “Octavia E. Butler Landing”), the airfield (the area where the helicopter will take off and return), and the flight zone (the area within which it will fly) on an image taken by the High Resolution Imaging Experiment (HiRISE) camera aboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Some small rainbow-like color distortions (which do not actually appear on the terrain of Mars) are seen in this image near the landing location because of the way pre- and post-landing color images were merged. Credit: NASA/JPL

Several hours after the first flight has occurred, Perseverance will downlink Ingenuity’s first set of engineering data and, possibly, images and video from the rover’s Navigation Cameras and Mastcam-Z, a pair of zoomable cameras. From the data downlinked that first evening after the flight, the Ingenuity team expects to be able to determine if its first attempt to fly at Mars was a success. Flight test results will be discussed by the Ingenuity team in a media conference that same day.

The solar-powered Ingenuity helicopter is a technology demonstration experiment aimed at attempting the first flight on Mars. The four-legged Ingenuity has a mass of about 4.0 pounds (1.8 kilograms) and stands 1.6 feet or 19 inches (0.49 meters) high.

This graphic shows the general activities the team behind NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter hopes to accomplish on a given test flight at the Red Planet. The helicopter will have 31 Earth days (30 sols, or Martian days) to fully conduct its test flight program. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The NASA and JPL teams have published the official agency mosaic from Sol 46 stitched from 62 raw images. The publicly released images (as well as a GIF) show two versions of the selfie scene with the Perseverance mast head looking into the WATSON camera and also looking away down towards Ingenuity standing upright on the floor of Jezero crater on the ‘Martian Flight Field.’

It’s just so fantastic it’s hard to find the words to describe this historic moment showing the spectacular scene of two robots dispatched from Earth standing upright side by side – the first aircraft on Mars drop deployed just days ago by her mothership and now resting unveiled in between the rover wheel tracks with the solar panel gathering life-giving solar energy to power the six lithium-ion batteries.

The Perseverance WATSON (Wide Angle Topographic Sensor for Operations and eNgineering camera is part of the SHERLOC (Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman and Luminescence for Organics and Chemicals) instrument located on the turret or hand at the end of the 7 ft (2.1 meters) long robotic arm.

NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover took a selfie with the Ingenuity helicopter, seen here about 13 feet (3.9 meters) from the rover. This image was taken by the WATSON camera on the rover’s robotic arm on April 6, 2021, the 46th Martian day, or sol, of the mission. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

“Two bots, one selfie. Greetings from Jezero Crater, where I’ve taken my first selfie of the mission. I’m also watching the #MarsHelicopter Ingenuity as it gets ready for its first flight in a few days. Daring mighty things indeed,” Perseverance tweeted.

Videos explaining how NASA’s Perseverance and Curiosity rovers take their selfies can be found in these NASA JPL videos here.

Perseverance also has been busy gathering high-resolution imagery of her breathtaking surroundings nearby and off into the distance to the stunning walls of Jezero Crater some 2 miles (3 km) away.

A high-resolution zoomed-in detailed panoramic view of the wall of Jezero Crater and Martain terrain seen by NASA Perseverance rover at the landing site was captured in images taken by the Mastcam-Z camera. This Sol 36 mosaic of 3 color raw images taken by Mastcam-Z left side camera on March 28, 2021. Credit: NASA/JPL/Ken Kremer
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