15:48 GMT18 May 2021
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    WASHINGTON (Sputnik) - Engineers preparing for the first flight of the Mars Ingenuity helicopter on Sunday are confident in their preparations and equipment but caution that wind speeds could be double those they were able to test against in Earth trials, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) officials said on Friday.

    "Confidence is high. The only uncertainty remains the winds," Ingenuity project manager MiMi Aung at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California told a press conference. "The flight system is resilient to a range of winds (however) it is possible we could encounter stronger winds than we were able to test against on Earth."

    Ingenuity and its rotor blades had been successfully tested before launch against wind speeds up to six meters per second (13.4 miles per hour), but wind speeds of 12 meters per second (26.9 miles per hour) are possible in the Martian atmosphere, Aung acknowledged.

    "This [mission] is definitely high risk, high reward. ...There are four possible outcomes: full success, partial success, data not coming back and full failure," she said.

    Ingenuity's planned flight on Sunday will be the first attempt at the powered, controlled flight of an aircraft on another planet. The 4-pound (1.8-kg) rotorcraft is expected to take off from Mars’ Jezero Crater at 12:30 p.m., local Mars solar time (10:54 p.m. EDT), hovering 10 feet (3 meters) above the surface for up to 30 seconds, NASA said.

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