NASA has flown a helicopter on Mars, and it went brilliantly [Updated]

NASA has flown a helicopter on Mars, and it went brilliantly [Updated]

Enlarge / A picture from Ingenuity, wanting down on the floor of Mars. That is its shadow.

NASA/JPL

Monday morning replace: NASA and its engineers have accomplished it! They’ve flown a powered plane on one other world for the primary time.

Shortly earlier than 7 am ET (11:00 UTC), information got here streaming to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory through a circuitous route: from the Ingenuity helicopter to the Perseverance rover, from there to the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter above the purple planet, throughout area to a big satellite tv for pc dish in Madrid, Spain, and at last to the California-based facility.

And the info was good. It indicated the helicopter spun up its rotors to 2,500 revolutions per minute, the car then rose to a bit of greater than 3 meters above the floor, hovered, after which descended safely to the floor.

Moments later, the helicopter undertaking supervisor, MiMi Aung, stated, “We are able to now say human brings have flown a rotorcraft on one other planet.” She urged her crew to take just a few moments to have a good time this flight. She gave them digital hugs, resulting from COVID-19. After which she stated they may not but have a good time final success. Ingenuity nonetheless must fly larger, and farther, Aung stated. There are 4 extra flights deliberate.

All of this occurred about 290 million km from Earth, on a planet with 1 % the environment of Earth. It was a exceptional second for NASA and for humanity’s exploration of the cosmos. We now have a brand new device to discover areas of worlds, which have a minimum of skinny atmospheres, which might be inaccessible to rovers. Such a helicopter or drone may additionally scout forward for people on Mars, famous Thomas Zurbuchen, the company’s chief of science missions.

This side-by-side image shows <em>Ingenuity</em>, as seen from the Mars Perseverance rover, on the ground and then up in the air.
Enlarge / This side-by-side picture reveals Ingenuity, as seen from the Mars Perseverance rover, on the bottom after which up within the air.

NASA/JPL

Authentic submit: NASA has resolved the problems with its Ingenuity helicopter on the floor of Mars and is able to fly.

The area company introduced on Saturday that it’s going to try and fly the small, 1.8 kg helicopter early on Monday. The primary flight is scheduled to happen at about 3:30am ET (07:30 UTC). It’ll take just a few hours to relay information from the helicopter to the Perseverance rover, after which to an orbiting satellite tv for pc and again to Earth. So NASA anticipates receiving the primary information again from Mars someday after 6:15am ET.

The area company will start a livestream at the moment, sharing any images and reactions from scientists and engineers as people try and fly a powered car on one other world for the primary time.

NASA initially deliberate to fly Ingenuity about one week in the past, however throughout a pre-flight check engineers encountered an issue. When the engineers despatched a command to the helicopter to check the rotation of its two counter-rotating blades, every of which is 1.2 meters lengthy, a difficulty prevented the check from occurring.

Since then the mission crew, led by undertaking supervisor MiMi Aung at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, labored on a software program repair that entailed including just a few instructions to the flight sequence. Since this was a change to software program that had been in a secure configuration for about two years, it required intensive testing and validation earlier than being despatched to the helicopter.

However the software program patch appears to have labored, as a result of on Friday the helicopter accomplished a full-speed spin check, organising the chance for a historic flight. For this primary flight, Ingenuity will rise a few meters above the bottom, hover within the air for about 20 to 30 seconds, after which land. Notably, the primary flight of the Wright Brothers’ airplane lasted for 12 seconds.

If this check flight is profitable, NASA will get extra daring in future forays, ultimately flying the helicopter for a distance of as much as 300 meters at a time.

That is all experimental, so it is fairly attainable that Ingenuity will fail. However NASA deserves credit score for taking dangers so as to push the frontier of exploration out that little bit additional. And in trying to fly on Mars, NASA will probably be gathering precious information for an bold mission to Saturn’s moon Titan utilizing the drone-like lander Dragonfly, which can try and hop throughout the enigmatic moon’s sand dunes a few decade from now.

First Flight of the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter: Stay from Mission Management.

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