NASA has bestowed a unique learning pattern for students to design their own video game to explore Mars with a helicopter-like Ingenuity, which is foreseen to execute its debut flight this week. The Mars helicopter Ingenuity landed at the Red Planet on Feb 18, connected to the belly of NASA’s Perseverance rover. The robotic helicopter was dropped from the rover and touched down on the Martian surface for the initial time on April 3 — the first step in making the aircraft for its first trial flight, which is slated for Wednesday.
Ingenuity has a restricted experiment window of up to 31 days (30 Mars days, or sols), while the NASA units will attempt up to five test flights, representing the first-ever effort at powered, regulated flights on another planet. To mark the helicopter’s expected flight, NASA has shared an interactive tutorial for learners to design and control their own Mars helicopter practicing a video programming platform called Scratch.
“The Mars Helicopter is a technology demonstration mission designed to show that a small, lightweight helicopter can fly in the thin atmosphere of Mars,” a NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) spokesperson stated in the instructional video, which NASA posted on YouTube.To finish this project, students will require access to a computer and the internet to download the Mars surface forms and the Mars helicopter sprite image, which will be applied for building the video game. You can sign up for a free Scratch account or simply generate a new project online.
To get started, you’ll require to upload the Mars images you downloaded to your fresh Scratch project. Then, you’ll be ready to program controls for the helicopter to fly up, down, left, or right, and build a landing target for when you play your video game. Moreover, Ingenuity’s test flights on Mars will last no more than 90 seconds each. Therefore, you can create your video game to simulate the Mars helicopter test flights by placing a countdown timer for players.
“Success for game players can be the same as a success for the Mars helicopter mission,” a NASA JPL representative said in the video. “Mission success will be achieved when the helicopter [Ingenuity] makes its first controlled flight on Mars, so develop code blocks that announce mission success when the game player successfully flies and lands the helicopter on the target.” You can find the full step-by-step learning guide to code your own Mars helicopter video game online, along with other educational activities for students to participate in NASA’s Ingenuity Mars helicopter mission from home.