NASA Mars Helicopter Makes One-Way Flight to New Mission

NASA Mars Helicopter Makes One-Way Flight to New Mission

NASA Mars Helicopter Makes One-Way Flight to New Mission

This time, NASA’s Mars robotic helicopter Ingenuity didn’t come again.

That was meant.

On Friday, Ingenuity, which final month grew to become the primary machine to fly like an airplane or a helicopter on one other world, took off for the fifth time. It made a profitable one-way journey to one other flat patch of Mars greater than the size of a soccer discipline away. The spot the place it landed will function its base of operations for the following month a minimum of, starting a brand new section of the mission the place it can function a scout for its bigger robotic companion, the Perseverance rover.

Ingenuity retraced the course of its earlier flight, heading south for 423 toes at an altitude of 16 toes. However as a substitute of turning round, it stopped and climbed increased, to 33 toes, to take some photos of the world. It then set down, 108 seconds after it had taken off.

As with the earlier 4 flights, Ingenuity flew autonomously, with no assist or communication from folks on Earth, executing a flight plan that had been despatched hours earlier. Engineers had to wait greater than three hours after Ingenuity had already landed earlier than information of the success — relayed from Ingenuity to Perseverance to an orbiter passing overhead after which to Earth — arrived.

Ingenuity, 1.6 toes tall and weighing 4 kilos, is an $85 million add-on challenge to the $2.7 billion Perseverance mission, which is looking for indicators of previous life on Mars. The helicopter traveled to Mars tucked beneath the stomach of the rover, which landed on Mars in February.

In NASA’s unique plans, after the helicopter was dropped onto the bottom in early April, the Ingenuity group had a month and up to 5 flights to exhibit that managed, powered flying was potential on Mars, the place the environment on the floor is simply 1 % as dense as Earth’s. Ingenuity was to have been left behind, and Perseverance would have headed off to conduct its scientific explorations.

However the mission’s managers at NASA modified their minds.

Ingenuity flew nearly flawlessly. The primary flight was a brief up-and-down. Subsequent flights ventured farther afield, assembly all the unique objectives.

In a weblog put up, Joshua Ravich, Ingenuity’s mechanical engineering lead, mentioned the ability system, the warmers, the navigation system and the rotors had been all working properly. “Our helicopter is much more sturdy than we had hoped,” he wrote.

That opened the door to utilizing Ingenuity not solely as a proof of the fundamental know-how but in addition to present aerial reconnaissance of the encircling panorama for the Perseverance scientists, who’ve determined that they need the rover to discover the neighboring areas for a number of months.

The fourth flight scouted a brand new location for the helicopter to land. “The digital elevation maps put collectively by the Ingenuity group gave us confidence that our new airfield is flat as a pancake — an excellent factor when you’ve to land on it,” Mr. Ravich mentioned.

Throughout the fourth flight, Perseverance, parked greater than 250 toes from the helicopter, efficiently recorded the sound of Ingenuity’s rotors slicing by means of the Martian air.

“We now have been fortunate to register the helicopter at such a distance,” David Mimoun, the science lead for the microphone, mentioned in a NASA information launch. “This recording can be a gold mine for our understanding of the Martian environment.”

After the transfer of Ingenuity to its new base, the main target of the Perseverance group now shifts to its scientific research, which have been largely on maintain in the course of the check flights.

“The plan ahead is to fly Ingenuity in a fashion that doesn’t cut back the tempo of Perseverance science operations,” mentioned Bob Balaram, the chief engineer of the helicopter, in a NASA launch after the flight.

Ingenuity is anticipated to make simply to make one or two extra flights this month, taking off when there’s time amid Perseverance’s different actions.

But when that every one goes properly, Ingenuity might proceed tagging together with Perseverance throughout the Martian panorama.

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