NASA is raising the bar for the Mars Perseverance Rover mission for eight successful landings. Set for liftoff on Thursday, July 30, a helicopter is brought along by the newest explorer on an otherworldly test ride.
The 4-pound helicopter, Innovation, must ride to Mars holding the belly of the rover, and try to fly solo a few months after landing. When lowered onto the Martian surface, Ingenuity starts as a baby pigeon, climbing 10 feet into the incredibly thin atmosphere of the planet and continuing forward up to 6 miles. It will try to go a little higher and faster with each attempt.
“It really is like the Wright brothers’ moment,” said project manager MiMi Aung. Before the explorer goes on to more challenging scientific research, she has one month to get in as many helicopter hops. Future could see next-generation helicopters scouting astronauts or even robots off remote Martian land.
Perseverance Rover wears the new landing tech, plus the bulk of cameras and microphones ever put together to record Mars’ sights and sounds. The cleanest objects ever destined for space are the super-sanitized sample return tubes with rocks that may contain traces of past Martian life.
The third and final flight to Mars this summer — after the orbiter Hope of the United Arab Emirates and the orbiter-rover duo of China’s Search for Heavenly Truth — begins with a launch from Cape Canaveral scheduled for Thursday morning. Unlike the other spacecraft, next February, Perseverance is expected to hit the red planet after a trip stretching seven months and more than 300 million miles.
If this works well on Thursday, it would be better to watch Mars Perseverance Rover launch than see the Chinese Tianwen-1 Mars mission last week. All the options to grab a takeoff are here.
NASA TV is not getting any better than it was on the launch days. NASA’s website will be sharing the channel for you to listen in for all the commentary and live videos.
Twitter will broadcast the launch online. The stream will 7 am ET on Thursday. There is an event page where an alert about the live stream can be placed. You will tweet about the #CountdownToMars before it starts.
By this point, live activities are essentially synonymous with YouTube. The update will be available to view on the online site early in the morning.
Facebook’s Oculus VR site will also host the launch live. And if the headset is yours, buckle on. You will watch the unveiling on Facebook Live if you already have a Facebook page or access to the VR.