The U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration is seeking to conduct "the first powered, controlled flight on another planet" with its Ingenuity helicopter Monday when it is cleared for takeoff over Mars.
The ultralightweight robot will attempt to take off into the Martian sky April 19 and, if successful, this will be the first powered, controlled flight on another planet. Ingenuity is expected to take off at 3:30 a.m. Eastern (07:30 GMT) Monday.
If Ingenuity successfully flies from Mars, NASA will broadcast a livestream of the first test flight data as it reaches Ingenuity's mission team at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. On Monday, the livestream will begin at 6:15 a.m. Eastern (10:15 a.m. PDT). You can watch the webcast directly on NASA TV.
The tiny rotorcraft was carried to Mars by the Perseverance rover - which dropped it off on the surface about a week ago. The rover will witness Ingenuity's attempts to fly.
The flight attempt was postponed from an initial April 11 target date to allow NASA time to upgrade software after a rotor spin test ended prematurely. Since then, the helicopter has completed a rapid spin test - bringing it one step closer to liftoff.
Ingenuity, according to NASA, is a high-risk, high-reward technology demonstration. If it works, it will be exciting but it won't be surprising if it doesn't. If the first flight is successful, further tests will be made. NASA has scheduled a test flight time of up to 31 Earth days.
Ingenuity has brought along a lucky charm. A tiny piece of the Wright Brothers' famous Flyer is attached to the rotorcraft - establishing a link between the making of aviation history on Earth and Mars.
NASA said the chopper's energy profile, thermal models and rotor operating speeds all appear to be excellent and its sensors have been enabled. All is in place for a historic operation.
"We will test, prove, and learn regardless of the outcome in this first attempt," MiMi Aung, Ingenuity project manager at JPL, said.