Members of the NASA Ingenuity helicopter team attach a thermal film to the exterior of the flight model of the rotorcraft. The image was taken on Feb. 1, 2019 inside the Space Simulator, a 25-foot-wide (7.62-meter-wide) vacuum chamber at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
The work isn’t over for NASA’s Ingenuity Mars helicopter.
Engineers hope to fly the rotorcraft four more times in the next two weeks before calling it quits on the pioneering technology experiment, which accomplished the first powered flight of an aircraft on another planet Monday.
As officials celebrated the helicopter’s historic flight, teams were already looking forward to a series of more daring hops to take Ingenuity higher and farther away from its makeshift “airfield” on the Red Planet.
The helicopter’s one-month test flight campaign officially began April 3, then the Perseverance rover deployed Ingenuity onto the surface of Mars.
“We have a 30 day experiment window, so we have two weeks left,” said MiMi Aung, Ingenuity’s project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.
She said the helicopter will attempt “increasingly bolder flights” that could travel more than 2,000 feet (600 meters) from its takeoff location. “We do want to push it, and I believe we have enough time to squeeze the next four flights in the next two weeks left.”
“Ultimately, we expect the helicopter will meet its limit,” Aung said. “But that information is extremely important. This is a Pathfinder. This is about finding unknown unknowns that we can model, and we really want to know what the limits are, so we will be pushing them very deliberately.”
On its first flight Monday, the helicopter took off to an altitude of about 10 feet (3 meters) Monday, hovered and turned, then set down in the same location. Due to the vast distance to Mars — some 173 million miles (278 kilometers) from Earth — there’s no real-time control of the helicopter. Instead, Ingenuity uses an altimeter, navigation camera, and a sophisticated processor to help guide its motion.
“From everything we’ve seen thus far, it was a flawless flight,” said Håvard Grip, Ingenuity’s chief pilot at JPL. “It was a gentle takeoff. At altitude, it gets pushed around little bit by the winds, but it really just maintained station very well, and it stuck the landing right in the place it was supposed to go.”
Cameras on-board the Ingenuity helicopter took pictures throughout the automated test flight. Long-range observations from NASA’s Perseverance rover showed the rotorcraft’s historic flight from an observation post about 211 feet (64 meters) away.
The rover’s Mastcam-Z instrument, featuring two telephoto cameras capable of long-distance imaging, recorded video of the 39-second flight. The first video downlinked from the Perseverance rover was a wide-angle view recorded in 720p at 6.7 frames per second, according to Justin Maki, deputy principal investigator for the Mastcam-Z instrument at JPL.
Ingenuity beamed black-and-white images from an down-looking on-board camera back to ground teams Monday. Grip said the imagery indicated the helicopter kicked up less dust than expected, a good sign for future flights.
The data route between the helicopter and mission control passes through a base station on the Perseverance rover, then through an orbiter flying around Mars, which then transmits information back to engineers on Earth. Commands from mission control reach the helicopter the same way.
Still to come are the first views from a color camera on the helicopter, and a more zoomed-in view from Perseverance’s other Mastcam-Z camera that should show a portion of the rotorcraft’s flight.
“We are swimming in data right now,” Maki said.
Steve Jurczyk, NASA’s acting administrator, congratulated the helicopter team on an “amazing job.”
“This really is a Wright Brothers’ moment,” he said. “It’s the start of a whole new kind of planetary exploration, and we’ll build on Ingenuity’s success to see how we can deploy this capability on future Mars missions.”
NASA says it developed and flew the Ingenuity helicopter on an $85 million budget. The success adds a new dimension to the way NASA explores other worlds.
“We have this evolution of exploring planets in the solar system, first we do a flyby, then we’ll do an orbiter mission, then we’ll do a lander mission, we’ll land a rover, and now we’ve added another evolutionary capability … of flight on another planet,” Jurczyk said.
President Biden said the helicopter flight on Mars “proved once again that with relentless determination and the power of America’s best minds, anything is possible.”
Ingenuity’s fuselage is not much larger than a tissue box, and its twin counter-rotating carbon-composite rotor blades span about 4 feet (1.2 meters) tip-to-tip. The entire helicopter weighed about 4 pounds (1.8 kilograms) on Earth, or 1.5 pounds under weaker Martian gravity.
Officials said one of the biggest challenges of the Mars helicopter’s six-year development was controlling the rotorcraft’s weight. Engineers had to fit the rotorcraft’s computer, batteries, rotor blades, and motors under the strict weight limit.
The rotors have to spin at near 2,500 rpm, much faster than helicopter blades on Earth, to create enough lift to power Ingenuity off the ground in the rarefied atmosphere of Mars, which is less than 1% the density of Earth’s at sea level. That’s roughly equivalent to the density of Earth’s atmosphere at 100,000 feet.
Ingenuity’s team took some extra time preparing for the first flight after a command sequence error cut short a spin-up test of the helicopter’s rotors. The time to troubleshoot the problem delayed Ingenuity’s first takeoff by about eight days, but officials are still optimistic to complete the helicopter’s five-flight test campaign by early May.
The second flight is scheduled as soon as Thursday, when Ingenuity will climb to an altitude of about 16 feet (5 meters), according to Aung. The helicopter will move laterally nearly 7 feet (2 meters), then come back to its original position for landing.
Flight No. 3 will extend the range of the helicopter by flying up to 160 feet, or 50 meters, from its “helipad” before returning for touchdown.
Grip, a guidance engineer serving as the helicopter’s chief pilot, said ground teams will command Ingenuity to travel downrange at around 4.5 mph (2 meters per second) on the third flight.
“In general terms, what we’re talking about here is going higher, going farther, going faster — stretching the capabilities of the helicopter in those ways,” Grip said.
Plans for the fourth and fifth flights haven’t been announced, but Aung said she hopes the helicopter can travel to distances between 600 and 700 meters, or nearly a half-mile, from its airfield — and go “as fast as we can go.”
According to Grip, the theoretical limit for Ingenuity’s altitude is constrained by the rotorcraft’s altimeter, which uses a laser range finder to measure the distance from the helicopter to the ground. That altitude limit is “probably around 10 meters (33 feet), or a little bit more, but not much more,” Grip said.
Teams also want to ensure the helicopter stays within range of its communications relay station on the Perseverance rover.
NASA named the helicopter’s takeoff and landing zone as “Wright Brothers Field.” The space agency also announced the International Civil Aviation Organization — the United Nations’ civil aviation agency — presented NASA and the Federal Aviation Administration with the official ICAO designator IGY, call-sign INGENUITY.
The location of the flight also received the ceremonial location designation JZRO for Jezero Crater, where the Perseverance rover landed Feb. 18, according to NASA.
Ingenuity’s demonstrations are scheduled to end in early May to allow the Perseverance rover to continue its primary mission. The $2.7 billion mission is designed to explore an ancient dried-up river delta a few miles from where the rover landed on Mars on Feb. 18.
Perseverance will gather rock samples for return to Earth on a future mission due to arrive on Mars in the late 2020s. Scientists will analyze the specimens — the first pristine samples ever returned from Mars — in search of signs of ancient life.
Ingenuity paves the way for aerial scouts that NASA could dispatch across the solar system. Future airborne drones could provide reconnaissance for rovers and astronauts exploring the surfaces of other worlds, and they could reach areas inaccessible to other vehicles, according to NASA officials.
NASA has selected a robotic mission named Dragonfly to explore Saturn’s largest moon Titan. But Titan has a much thicker atmosphere than Mars, which eases the difficulty of rotor-driven flight. The Dragonfly mission is scheduled for launch in 2027.
There are no more helicopters currently scheduled to fly to Mars. Thomas Zurbuchen, head of NASA’s science mission directorate, said one area where future Mars helicopters might assist scientists is in exploring the walls of craters, places inaccessible to rovers driving on the surface.
Bob Balaram, Ingenuity’s chief engineer, said Monday that the Ingenuity design could be scaled up to masses between 25 and 50 kilograms — or 55 to 110 pounds — to accommodate scientific instruments. Ingenuity’s only payloads are black-and-white and color cameras.
NASA’s next Mars lander is scheduled for launch in 2026. It will land in the Jezero Crater region to retrieve the rock samples collected by the Perseverance rover, then launch the specimens on a journey back to Earth.
"Perseverance" gelingt Umwandlung von CO2 in Sauerstoff
Techniker in einem Nasa-Labor führen das wissenschaftlichen Gerät namens "Moxie" in das Innere des Mars-Rovers ein: "Perseverance" hat auf dem Mars erstmals Sauerstoff extrahiert. (Quelle: -/Nasa/JPL-Caltech/dpa)
Der US-Marsmission ist eine weitere Pioniertat gelungen: Der Rover "Perseverance" hat auf dem Mars erstmals Sauerstoff extrahiert. Der Prozess könnte künftigen Astronauten das Atmen ermöglichen.
Der Rover "Perseverance" hat erstmals Kohlendioxid aus der Atmosphäre des Roten Planeten in Sauerstoff umgewandelt, wie die US-Raumfahrtbehörde Nasa am Mittwoch mitteilte. Erstmals in der Geschichte der Raumfahrt sei dieser Prozess nun auf einem anderen Planeten vollzogen worden.
Bei dem Experiment, das am 20. April stattfand, kam "Moxie" zum Einsatz, ein goldener Kasten von der Größe einer Autobatterie. Das Gerät spaltet über elektrische und chemische Prozesse das CO2 auf und gewinnt auf diese Weise Sauerstoff.
Könnte Astronauten das Atmen auf dem Mars ermöglichen
Das Verfahren könnte nicht nur Astronauten, die eines Tages den Roten Planeten betreten sollen, das Atmen ermöglichen. Es könnte auch den benötigten Sauerstoff liefern, der in großen Mengen für den Antrieb der Rakete bei der Rückreise zur Erde benötigt wird.
Am Montag war es der Nasa bereits gelungen, mehr als eine halbe Minute lang den Mini-Hubschrauber "Ingenuity" auf dem Mars fliegen zu lassen. "Perseverance" war Mitte Februar mit dem Fluggerät auf dem Roten Planeten gelandet.
Aboard NASA’s Perseverance rover, MOXIE creates oxygen on Mars
Thanks to an MIT-designed instrument, a NASA mission has produced oxygen on another planet for the first time.
NASA’s Perseverance rover has been marking milestones on Mars since landing on the Red Planet in February. Its latest historic accomplishment is the first creation of oxygen from carbon dioxide in the thin Mars atmosphere. Mission time is measured in sols, or Martian days. Oxygen production was achieved early in the evening of April 20, or early morning on Sol 60 in Jezero Crater.
MOXIE (Mars Oxygen In-situ Resource Utilization Experiment), a small, gold box-shaped instrument on the rover, successfully demonstrated a solid oxide electrolysis technology for converting the Martian atmosphere to oxygen. The atmosphere on Mars is about 95% carbon dioxide.
MOXIE’s first oxygen run produced 5.4 grams of oxygen in an hour. The power supply limits potential production to 12 g/hr — about the same amount that a large tree would produce.
For both rockets and astronauts, oxygen is crucial, says MOXIE’s principal investigator, Michael Hecht of MIT Haystack Observatory. “To burn its fuel, a rocket must have many times more oxygen by weight. To get four astronauts off the Martian surface on a future mission would require 15,000 pounds (7 metric tons) of rocket fuel and 55,000 pounds (25 metric tons) of oxygen.” In contrast, Hecht says, “The astronauts who spend a year on the surface will maybe use one metric ton between them to breathe.”
Illustration of the Perseverance rover on Mars with its science instruments
The oxygen production process starts with carbon dioxide intake; inside MOXIE, the Martian CO2 is compressed and filtered to remove any contaminants. It is then heated, which causes separation into oxygen and carbon monoxide. The oxygen is further isolated by a hot, charged ceramic component; the oxygen ions merge into O2. Carbon monoxide is expelled harmlessly back into the atmosphere.
The MOXIE teams will next analyze the purity of the oxygen; preliminary indications are that once the background CO2 was flushed out by the flowing oxygen, the resulting product was nearly 100% pure oxygen.
Serving as a proof of concept, MOXIE has paved the way for possible future Mars missions to produce oxygen, which will be needed for rocket propulsion on return trips for crewed missions.
“The first run of MOXIE is a step in the right direction to bring us closer to the possibility of human missions to Mars,” says Jeffrey Hoffman, a professor of the practice in the MIT Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, who is the deputy principal investigator the project. “The technology that evolves from what we have been able to do here will be the grandchildren descended from the success of our MOXIE instrument.”
MOXIE is sponsored by NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate and Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate. It is a joint venture between NASA, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), MIT Haystack Observatory, and MIT’s Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics. JPL, which is managed for NASA by Caltech in Pasadena, California, built and manages operations of the Perseverance rover.
Quelle: Massachusetts Institute of Technology
HÖHER, LÄNGER, WEITER
Mars-Helikopter „Ingenuity“ zum 2. Mal abgehoben
Wenige Tage nach seinem historischen Erstflug hat der Mini-Hubschrauber „Ingenuity“ am Donnerstag einen zweiten Flug auf dem Mars absolviert. Der Flug sei höher und länger ausgefallen, zudem habe sich der Helikopter auch seitwärts bewegt, teilte die US-Raumfahrtbehörde NASA mit. „Die Messwerte, die wir bisher bekommen und analysiert haben, sagen uns, dass der Flug unsere Erwartungen erfüllt hat und unsere vorherigen Computermodelle korrekt waren“, sagte NASA-Ingenieur Bob Balaram.
Es bleibe aber „noch viel zu lernen“. Am Montag hatte „Ingenuity“ (Einfallsreichtum) als erstes Luftfahrzeug einen Flug auf einem anderen Planeten absolviert. Der mit Lithium-Ionen-Akkus betriebene und rund 1,8 Kilogramm schwere Helikopter stieg dabei auf eine Höhe von etwa drei Metern auf und schwebte dann etwa 30 Sekunden, bevor er wieder landete. Insgesamt dauerte der Flug 39,1 Sekunden.
Beim zweiten Flug kletterte „Ingenuity“ nun auf eine Höhe von fünf Metern, schwebte dann auf der Stelle und flog schließlich zwei Meter zur Seite, bevor er wieder landete. Insgesamt dauerte der Flug 51,9 Sekunden. In den kommenden Wochen sind weitere Flüge geplant.
Rotoren brauchen extrem hohe Drehzahl Der Helikopter muss auf dem Mars extremen Bedingungen trotzen: Nachts ist es bis zu minus 90 Grad Celsius kalt, was für Batterien und Elektronik leicht das Todesurteil bedeuten kann.
Der Mini-Helikopter „Ingenuity“ soll beweisen, dass Fliegen auf dem Mars möglich ist - hier abgebildet ist ein lebensgroßes Modell.
Wegen der dünnen Atmosphäre, die grob nur ein Prozent so dicht ist wie die auf der Erde, müssen die Rotoren von „Ingenuity“ auf 2537 Umdrehungen pro Minute beschleunigen - ein Vielfaches von Helikoptern auf der Erde, ungefähr die Frequenz von Kolibri-Flügelschlägen. Die Energie für diese Kraftanstrengung zieht „Ingenuity“ aus seiner durch Sonnenstrahlen gefütterten Batterie.
Der Mini-Helikopter war an Bord des NASA-Rovers „Perseverance“(Durchhaltevermögen) Ende Februar - nach 203 Flugtagen und 472 Millionen zurückgelegten Kilometern - mit einem riskanten Manöver in einem ausgetrockneten Mars-See namens „Jezero Crater“ aufgesetzt. Entwicklung und Bau des rund 2,5 Milliarden Dollar (2,08 Milliarden Euro) teuren Rovers dauerten acht Jahre. Er soll am Mars nach Spuren früheren mikrobiellen Lebens fahnden sowie Klima und Geologie des Planeten erforschen.
Quelle: Kronen Zeitung
Mars Perseverance Sol 58: Left Mastcam-Z Camera
NASA's Mars Perseverance rover acquired this image using its Left Mastcam-Z camera. Mastcam-Z is a pair of cameras located high on the rover's mast. This image was acquired on Apr. 22, 2021 (Sol 58) at the local mean solar time of 12:28:41.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU
Mars helicopter shares first aerial color photo and preps for Sunday flight
(CNN)So this is what the view looks like when flying on Mars.
The Ingenuity helicopter captured its first color image from 17 feet (5.2 meters) above the Martian surface during its second flight on April 22. And now, it's preparing for a third flight, scheduled for Sunday.
Ingenuity autonomously flew for almost 52 seconds during its second flight, climbing 16 feet (4.9 meters) up through the Martian atmosphere. After a brief hover, it tilted at a 5-degree angle and moved sideways for 7 feet (2.1 meters).
Ingenuity captured its first color image on April 22.
The helicopter hovered in place again to make three turns. This allowed Ingenuity's color camera to capture images taken looking in different directions, before the chopper touched back down in the center of the airfield. Ingenuity only collected black-and-white images with its navigation camera during the first flight on April 19.
The color image, shared on Friday by NASA, is the first taken by an aerial vehicle while aloft on Mars. On either side of the image, landings pads from two of the helicopter's four legs can be seen.
The helicopter's shadow on the surface of Mars can be seen at the bottom of the image.
The view from the helicopter's perspective reveals tracks made by the Perseverance rover when it initially had deposited the helicopter in the middle of its 33-foot-by-33-foot (10-meter-by-10-meter) airfield, now known as Wright Brothers Field.
There is also a glimpse of the Martian horizon in the upper-right and left corners of the photo.
The helicopter team believes this image helps demonstrate the unique aerial scouting ability of Ingenuity and other rotorcraft that could be modeled after it in the future.
Ingenuity isn't wasting any time, and the 4-pound helicopter is scheduled to fly again on Sunday morning. Data and imagery will begin streaming into the control room at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, at 10:16 a.m. ET.
Each flight is a little more challenging than the next. For Sunday's flight, the helicopter will climb to the same altitude -- about 16 feet (5 meters) above the Martian surface -- but this time it will increase its speed.
During previous flights, Ingenuity was moving at about 1.1 miles per hour (0.5 meters per second). Now, the chopper is going to boost that speed to 4.5 miles per hour (2 meters per second).
The chopper will also fly 164 feet (50 meters) north before returning to touch down at its landing site.
The mission team is planning for a total flight time of 80 seconds, the longest yet, and a total distance of about 330 feet (100 meters).
"While that number may not seem like a lot, consider that we never moved laterally more than about two-pencil lengths when we flight-tested in the vacuum chamber here on Earth," wrote Håvard Grip, Ingenuity Mars helicopter chief pilot at JPL, in an update.
"And while the 4 meters of lateral movement in Flight Two (2 meters out and then 2 meters back) was great, providing lots of terrific data, it was still only 4 meters. As such, Flight Three is a big step, one in which Ingenuity will begin to experience freedom in the sky."
Ingenuity, a technology demonstration, still has another week to conduct two more flights before the 31-day mission comes to an end.
"Even though we are conducting our flight tests in a tenuous atmosphere over 180 million miles (290 million kilometers) from Earth, we model our methodical approach to experimental flight on the Wright brothers' approach," Grip wrote. "Our plan from Day One has been to prepare like crazy, fly, analyze the data (like crazy), and then plan for an even bolder test in the next flight."
Check back here on Sunday for updates on the Mars Ingenuity helicopter's historic third flight.
We Are Prepping for Ingenuity's Third Flight Test Written by Håvard Grip, Ingenuity Mars Helicopter Chief Pilot at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory
This is the first color image of the Martian surface taken by an aerial vehicle while it was aloft. The Ingenuity Mars Helicopter captured it with its color camera during its second successful flight test on April 22, 2021. At the time this image, Ingenuity was 17 feet (5.2 meters) above the surface. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.Download image ›
Yesterday I got to write the entry for the second successful experimental flight test from "Wright Brothers Field" in the project's official logbook, which is called "The Nominal Pilot's Logbook for Planets and Moons." Next chance to make an entry is coming up fast: We're targeting our third flight for this Sunday, April 25, with initial datasets and imagery arriving in our control room at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory around 7:16 a.m. PDT (10:16 a.m. EDT).
As many of you know, we carry a piece of the original Wright Flyer aboard our helicopter. Even though we are conducting our flight tests in a tenuous atmosphere over 180 million miles (290 million kilometers) from Earth, we model our methodical approach to experimental flight on the Wright brothers' approach. Our plan from Day One has been to prepare like crazy, fly, analyze the data (like crazy), and then plan for an even bolder test in the next flight.
During the second flight, on April 22, Ingenuity autonomously climbed to 5 meters (16 feet) in height, traveled 2 meters (7 feet) to the east and back, and remained airborne 51.9 seconds. It also made three turns, totaling about 276 degrees.
We're being cautious with each new foray in the skies of Mars as we continue to build confidence in the capabilities of this new exploration platform. For the third flight, we're targeting the same altitude, but we are going to open things up a bit too, increasing our max airspeed from 0.5 meters per second to 2 meters per second (about 4.5 mph) as we head 50 meters (164 feet) north and return to land at Wright Brothers Field. We're planning for a total flight time of about 80 seconds and a total distance of 100 meters (330 feet).
While that number may not seem like a lot, consider that we never moved laterally more than about two-pencil lengths when we flight-tested in the vacuum chamber here on Earth. And while the 4 meters of lateral movement in Flight Two (2 meters out and then 2 meters back) was great, providing lots of terrific data, it was still only 4 meters. As such, Flight Three is a big step, one in which Ingenuity will begin to experience freedom in the sky.
After each of our flights, I have had the privilege of filling out our logbook and capturing the flight highlights — something pilots have been doing since the early days of flying. While I've made logbook entries before as a terrestrial fixed-wing pilot, these are the most unusual entries I have made. They are also the most satisfying, not only because they represent flight on another planet, but because each notation represents a trove of valuable data that our team has spent years preparing to obtain.
NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter Logs Second Successful Flight
NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter hovers over Jezero Crater during its second experimental flight test on April 22, 2021. The imagery was captured by the Perseverance rover’s Mastcam-Z imager.
The small rotorcraft’s horizons were expanded on its second flight.
NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter successfully completed its second Mars flight on April 22 – the 18th sol, or Martian day, of its experimental flight test window. Lasting 51.9 seconds, the flight added several new challenges to the first, which took place on April 19, including a higher maximum altitude, longer duration, and sideways movement.
“So far, the engineering telemetry we have received and analyzed tell us that the flight met expectations and our prior computer modeling has been accurate,” said Bob Balaram, chief engineer for the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. “We have two flights of Mars under our belts, which means that there is still a lot to learn during this month of Ingenuity.”
For this second flight test at “Wright Brothers Field,” Ingenuity took off again at 5:33 a.m. EDT (2:33 a.m. PDT), or 12:33 p.m. local Mars time. But where Flight One topped out at 10 feet (3 meters) above the surface, Ingenuity climbed to 16 feet (5 meters) this time. After the helicopter hovered briefly, its flight control system performed a slight (5-degree) tilt, allowing some of the thrust from the counter-rotating rotors to accelerate the craft sideways for 7 feet (2 meters).
“The helicopter came to a stop, hovered in place, and made turns to point its camera in different directions,” said Håvard Grip, Ingenuity’s chief pilot at JPL. “Then it headed back to the center of the airfield to land. It sounds simple, but there are many unknowns regarding how to fly a helicopter on Mars. That’s why we’re here – to make these unknowns known.”
Operating an aircraft in a controlled manner at Mars is far more difficult than flying one on Earth. Even though gravity on Mars is about one third that of Earth’s, the helicopter must fly with the assistance of an atmosphere with only about 1% of the density at Earth’s surface. Each second of each flight provides an abundance of Mars in-flight data for comparison to the modeling, simulations, and tests performed back here on Earth. And NASA also gains its first practical experience operating a rotorcraft remotely at Mars. These datasets will prove invaluable for potential future Mars missions that could enlist next-generation helicopters to add an aerial dimension to their explorations.
NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover acquired this image using its left Mastcam-Z camera. Mastcam-Z is a pair of cameras located high on the rover’s mast. This is one still frame from a sequence captured by the camera while taking video. This image was acquired on Apr. 22, 2021.
The Ingenuity Mars Helicopter project is a high-risk, high-reward technology demonstration. If Ingenuity were to encounter difficulties during its 30-sol mission, the science-gathering of NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover mission wouldn’t be impacted.
As with the first test, the Perseverance rover obtained imagery of the flight attempt from 211 feet (64.3 meters) away at “Van Zyl Overlook” using its Navcam and Mastcam-Z imagers. The initial set of data – including imagery – from the flight was received by the Ingenuity team beginning at 9:20 a.m. EDT (6:20 a.m. PDT).
“For the second flight, we tried a slightly different approach to the zoom level on one of the cameras,” said Justin Maki, Perseverance project imaging scientist and Mastcam-Z deputy principal investigator at JPL. “For the first flight, one of the cameras was fully zoomed in on the takeoff and landing zone. For the second flight we zoomed that camera out a bit for a wider field of view to capture more of the flight.”
Because the data and imagery indicate that the Mars Helicopter not only survived the second flight but also flew as anticipated, the Ingenuity team is considering how best to expand the profiles of its next flights to acquire additional aeronautical data from the first successful flight tests on another world.
The Ingenuity Mars Helicopter’s navigation camera captures the helicopter's shadow on the surface of Jezero Crater during rotorcraft’s second experimental test flight on April 22, 2021.
More About Ingenuity
The Ingenuity Mars Helicopter was built by JPL, which also manages this technology demonstration project for NASA Headquarters. It is supported by NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate, and Space Technology Mission Directorate. NASA’s Ames Research Center and Langley Research Center provided significant flight performance analysis and technical assistance during Ingenuity’s development.
At NASA Headquarters, Dave Lavery is the program executive for the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter. At JPL, MiMi Aung is the project manager and J. (Bob) Balaram is chief engineer.
Ingenuity: Nasa's Mars helicopter makes it three from three
The US space agency's Ingenuity Mars helicopter has now made its third successful flight on the Red Planet.
On Sunday, the little chopper rose to a height of 5m before speeding off laterally for 50m - half the length of a football field.
Ingenuity then came back to its take-off spot, for a total flight time of 80 seconds.
Sunday's sortie was the most ambitious yet, but engineers say they plan to push the technology harder still.
They want to find the chopper's limits, even if that means crashing it in the process.
The previous two flights were conducted on Monday and Thursday. Monday's historic outing marked the first time powered, controlled flight by an aircraft had been conducted on another world.
Look carefully at the ground and you can see wheel tracks made by the roving Perseverance(NASA)
Ingenuity was carried to Mars by Nasa's Perseverance rover, which touched down in Jezero Crater in mid-February.
The 1.8kg drone is regarded as a technology demonstration intended to prove the utility of aerial mobility in the planet's rarefied atmosphere.
In the future, helicopters could be used to scout the way ahead for rovers and astronauts, and to investigate otherwise impossible to reach locations, such as cliff faces.
Nasa officials have granted the Ingenuity engineering team two more flights before Perseverance is commanded to get on with its primary mission of searching for life in Jezero.
For the past week of testing, the one-tonne robot has been acting as the chopper's radio base-station and the photographer of record. Perseverance has been taking still images and making short movies, all from a distance of 65m from the drone's "airfield".
Ingenuity, too, has been taking photos, whilst airborne. These are black and white pictures that look straight down to track passing rocks to help with navigation. The drone also has a colour camera that looks horizontally.
Much of the imagery acquired so far has had to wait its turn to come back to Earth. The relay satellites at Mars are restricted in their bandwidth, and it is the engineering data that details flight performance which has been prioritised for immediate return.
A few sample photos have come back but we may have to wait a few days for all the pictures, including the full-length movies shot by the spectating Perseverance, to make their way home.
The major difficulty in flying on the Red Planet is the very thin atmosphere, which has just 1% of the density here at Earth.
This gives the rotor blades on Ingenuity very little to bite into to produce lift. There's help from the lower gravity at Mars, but still - it takes a lot of work to get up off the ground.
The Nasa chopper was therefore made extremely light and given the power to turn those blades super-fast - at over 2,500 revolutions per minute.
Control also has to be autonomous. The distance to Mars is currently 295 million km, which means radio signals take 16-and-a-half minutes to traverse the intervening space. Flying by joystick is simply out of the question.