Escape from our earthly pandemic April 12, 2021 via NASA.
Tune in to NASA Live or NASA online early, actually very early, Monday morning when, if all goes as planned, Ingenuity, the Mars Helicopter, will be seen moving and hovering beginning at 3:30 a.m. EDT.
A post flight briefing is planned for 11 a.m. EDT, April 12.
Ingenuity’s inaugural flight will livestream to (hopefully) demonstrate the first powered flight on another planet.
Don’t expect the kind of helicopter tour often touted for visiting Hawaii or the Grand Canyon. Ingenuity will be starting out slow and low in Mars’ freezing temperatures and thin air. If all goes well, it will move just a few feet up and hover a few seconds before landing.
‘That will be a major milestone: the very first powered flight in the extremely thin atmosphere of Mars, ” said a NASA statement.
Ingenuity demonstrations are expected to continue with greater altitude and distance for approximately 31 Martian days (sols). Then, Perseverance will continue its exploratory mission.
The helicopter was attached to the Perseverance rover that landed at the Jezero Crater on Mars, Feb. 18, 2021. Perseverance released Ingenuity upon reaching what was considered to be a good “helipad.”
Prime time to see the two planets at their closest is 4:15 p.m. CST Monday, low in the southwest. But you can see them fairly close to each other through December.
What regular sky watchers know is that the two planets do pass near each other every 20 years as they last did in 2000. The difference this year is that their orbits bring them 10 times closer than in 2000.
Indeed, they will be closer than they have been seen at night than in 800 years and closer during the day in 400 years. Seen together as a “great conjunction,” they may resemble one large or elongated planet or star.
As for the meteors, the Ursids which shoot across the sky seemingly radiating from Ursa Minor about 10 meteors per hour, aren’t as plentiful as the Geminids. However, both can be seen Dec. 20-22. The Ursid comet parent is 8P/Tuttle.