NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter Enters New Phase of Flight – Sky & Telescope

Ingenuity on Sol 48, as imaged by Perseverance’s left Mastcam-Z digicam. NASA / JPL-Caltech / ASUOn April 19, 2021, the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter made historical past, with the primary powered flight on one other planet. Since then, the helicopter has flown farther, larger, and quicker on successive flights. Now, NASA introduced on Friday that it’s going to finish the one-month demonstration part for the intrepid helicopter, and lengthen its operational capabilities for not less than one other month.

“The Ingenuity technology demonstration has been a resounding success,” says affiliate administrator Thomas Zurbuchen (NASA Science Mission Directorate) in a latest press launch. “Since Ingenuity remains in excellent health, we plan to use it to benefit future aerial platforms while prioritizing and moving forward with the Perseverance rover team’s near-term science goals.”

Ingenuity was set to finish its fourth flight final Thursday, April 29th, earlier than a software program glitch induced the helicopter to fail to transition into flight mode. Mars is at present about 17 gentle-minutes distant, which means the helicopter is by itself to hold out flights. NASA engineers fastened the glitch and re-uploaded the pre-flight program to the helicopter by way of the worldwide Deep Space Network. The flight was profitable the very subsequent day, on April 30th.

The helicopter flew for 117 seconds, reached an altitude of 4.9 meters (16 toes), and ranged out over a spherical-journey of 266 meters to the south, snapping pictures alongside the best way, earlier than it returned to the Wright Brothers Field touchdown website. Ingenuity broke its personal flight pace report on this flight, shifting at a most of 3.5 meters per second (7.eight mph).

Just one other day on Mars, taking pictures video of a flying helicopter. Quick preview of #MarsHelicopter’s Flight Four takeoff under; extra pics and video but to return.
Typical photographer: tons of gear to juggle and mountains of recordsdata to add! Newest pics at:
— NASA’s Perseverance Mars Rover (@NASAPersevere) April 30, 2021

The rover is on the transfer once more as nicely. On Sol 66 (April 26th), Perseverance drove 10 meters south of the Jakob van Zyl overlook, resuming its seek for new science targets.

Ingenuity sees its shadow throughout flight three. NASA / JPL-Caltech“We have appreciated the support provided by the Perseverance rover team during our technology and demonstration phase,” says MiMi Aung (NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory) in a latest press launch. “Now we have a chance to pay it forward, demonstrating for future robotic and even crewed missions the benefits of having a partner nearby that can provide a different perspective.”

The half-meter-excessive helicopter is gentle, at Four kilos (1.eight kilograms), and photo voltaic powered. Two pairs of counter-rotating blades spin at 2,500 rpm to create carry in opposition to the tenuous Martian ambiance, which has just one% the density of Earth’s air at sea degree. Ingenuity doesn’t carry any science payloads, nevertheless it does have a laser altimeter, a 13-megapixel coloration digicam, and a 0.5-megapixel black-and-white digicam onboard. Ingenuity depends on Perseverance to speak with Earth however can vary as much as a couple of kilometer from the rover.

Perseverance (higher left) as imaged from Ingenuity in flight. NASA / JPL / CaltechThe one-month extension transitions Ingenuity from a expertise demonstration, merely exhibiting that flight is feasible on Mars, to an operations mission that demonstrates strategies and methods for future aerial missions.

Watch for flight 5 — the ultimate deliberate checkout flight — to happen someday this week, no sooner than May seventh. In one other first, Ingenuity will go away the Wright Brothers Field website for good, flying downrange to a brand new touchdown website. This is riskier than earlier flights, because the helicopter should land on the new website by itself. Along the best way, the helicopter will snap pictures from its aerial perspective of the brand new terrain forward of Perseverance rover, one other plus for the mission.

Perseverance vs. the Octavia E. Butler touchdown website, as seen from Ingenuity. NASA / JPL-CaltechAnticipate to see the flight cadence to decelerate throughout this new operational part, from a flight each 2 to three days, to at least one each 2 to three weeks. In June, NASA will assess Ingenuity’s efficiency. However, August’s photo voltaic conjunction, when the Sun comes between Earth and Mars and disrupts radio communication, will in all probability spell the tip for Ingenuity.

Perseverance has already been an incredible mission since its sky hook touchdown in Jezero Crater on the Octavia E. Butler touchdown website on February 18, 2021. It can be thrilling to see Ingenuity fly on in coming weeks as a robotic scout for the Perseverance rover.


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