Ingenuity Completes a Huge 50-Meter Flight on Mars – Universe Today

On Feb. 18th, 2021, the Perseverance rover landed on Mars carrying probably the most superior scientific devices ever despatched to a different planet. It additionally carried experiments designed to push the envelope of exploration and assist pave the way in which for crewed missions to Mars. This consists of the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter, an experimental flight system designed to see if aerial techniques can function within the Martian environment.
After making its inaugural flight on April 19th, Ingenuity has taken to the air twice extra and set many data within the course of. During its most up-to-date check flight (which befell on the morning of April 25th), the helicopter flew farther and sooner than ever earlier than. All advised, the helicopter lined a distance of 50 meters (164 toes) in 80 seconds, reaching a high velocity of two m/s (6.6 toes per second) or 7.2 km/hour (4.5 mph).

The flight started at 12:33 p.m. Mars Standard Time (MST) – or 04:31 a.m. EDT and 01:31 a.m. PDT right here on Earth – with the helicopter ascending to five m (16 ft) – the identical altitude as its second flight. Less than six hours later (at 10:16 a.m. EDT; 07:16 a.m. PDT), the Ingenuity staff at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) started receiving info from Perseverance, which was monitoring the flight with its Mastcam-Z mounted digicam system.

The staff was thrilled with the footage, which confirmed the helicopter fly out of view and journey farther and sooner than ever – even throughout check flights right here on Earth. The knowledge obtained from this flight will inform not simply further Ingenuity flights, however doable Mars rotorcraft sooner or later. Said Dave Lavery, this system govt for Ingenuity at NASA’s HQ in Wahsington DC:
“Today’s flight was what we planned for, and yet it was nothing short of amazing. With this flight, we are demonstrating critical capabilities that will enable the addition of an aerial dimension to future Mars missions.”
The Ingenuity staff additionally took this chance to push the helicopter’s limits by including directions, which included telling it to take extra photos utilizing each its coloration digicam and black and-and-white navigation digicam. Whereas the colour digicam took its first photos in the course of the second flight, the black-and-white navigation digicam was put by way of its paces with this newest flight.
This consisted of its capability to trace floor options beneath the helicopter and course of the photographs it takes onboard. These are important to Ingenuinity‘s flight computer, which autonomously flies the helicopter based on instructions it receives hours before data can make it back to Earth. As it covers greater distances, more images are taken to keep track of its flight path and ensure it doesn’t journey too quick to lose monitor of floor options.

As famous already, this third check flight exceeded something Ingenuity was in a position to carry out throughout check runs right here on Earth. These befell inside vacuum chambers at JPL, that are stuffed with a skinny (primarily carbon dioxide) environment to simulate situations on Mars. Unfortunately, these chambers are very tight and solely permit autos as small as Ingenuity to maneuver about half a meter (1.6 toes) in any path.
In order to ensure that the digicam may monitor the floor because the helicopter flew a lot higher distances on Mars, the staff had to ensure every part was in working order. “When you’re in the test chamber, you have an emergency land button right there and all these safety features,” stated Gerik Kubiak, a JPL software program engineer. “We have done all we can to prepare Ingenuity to fly free without these features.”
These preparations had been largely centered on the algorithm that tracks floor options, but in addition included the software program and {hardware} that ensures that mud and environmental components don’t intervene with the publicity of photographs. “This is the first time we’ve seen the algorithm for the camera running over a long distance,” stated MiMi Aung, the helicopter’s mission supervisor at JPL. “You can’t do this inside a test chamber.”
Like every part else about these flights, these further steps in verification are supposed to present insights that can assist in the planning of future missions. The Ingenuity Mars Helicopter staff is presently planning future missions, with the potential for a fourth flight within the coming days. With a lot completed to this point, it’s onerous to think about what milestones and data they will stay up for attaining.
Further Reading: NASA, NASA
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