NASA’s Space Office has reported data from the first attempt at flying a small helicopter on the surface of Mars. The Associated Press recalls that the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, took it over a few hours after the event.
The helicopter successfully took off and then landed again. Specifically, it took off to a height of more than three meters, where it stayed for a few seconds, turned around a vertical axis, landed again on the surface of Mars, and then stopped its orbits.
There will now be many more – and more demanding – flight tests planned.
The helicopter was originally scheduled to take off at the end of last week, but the scientists encountered a software problem that delayed the launch sequence.
helicopter #cleverness He did an amazing job on Mars today. He rotated the rotors, took off to a height of more than 3 meters, where he stayed for a few seconds, turned around the vertical axis, landed again on the surface of Mars and stopped the rotors. This is a huge success! pic.twitter.com/c5ROpJKKif
– Michel Vaclavik (@osmo_michal) April 19, 2021
The Creativity Machine arrived on the surface of the Red Planet in February as part of the Perseverance Reconnaissance Vehicle. It then separated from it and successfully survived its first solo night on the surface of Mars, showing that the helicopter is capable of autonomous operation in harsh local conditions, when the temperature drops to -90 ° C at night.
So experts began a series of tests to prepare for the first controlled flight of a heavier-than-air object on an alien object. However, they ran into a software issue that did not allow the Ingenuity control unit to switch the machine to “flight mode” and start a high-speed rotor test, which is necessary before an acute start. So NASA suggested two solutions. The first was a slight modification of the timing of the individual commands that Ingenuity performs, and the second was the modification and complete reinstallation of the helicopter control program.
The flight is also confirmed by the eyes of a rover.
Photo: Nasa / jpl-caltech / asu, Reuters
Thus, interfering with it shortly before the sharp flight was risky, according to scientists, and the whole process will be longer. Therefore, the engineers have so far rejected the second option and decided on the first method. By this, they were able to start a high-speed test of the rotors and run a successful test on Friday.
If creativity hadn’t taken off due to persistent problems with the bootstrap sequence, technicians were prepared to go ahead with the second step in an effort to overcome software hurdles. However, this would delay the test.
Much more difficult than flying to the ground
So, since Monday’s flight was a success, the probe helicopter first sent technical data about the maneuvers it had just conducted, and then the Tenacity craft brought it back to Earth. This first dataset also included a black and white flight image from an Ingenuity camera aimed directly at Earth.
The creativity helicopter successfully took off on Mars.
Photo: Nasa / jpl-caltech / asu, Reuters
The helicopter must let its batteries charge, and the next day it must send a color image of the horizon, which I captured in the air with its other cameras. However, the more attractive photos and videos for viewers are supposed to be from the rover itself.
Ingenuity has an extremely lightweight body that weighs 1.8 kg and a pair of carbon vanes that spin against each other. Flying through the very scattered atmosphere of Mars is much more demanding than it is on Earth, so propellers had to develop around 2,400 revolutions per minute, which is many times more than ground-based helicopters.
No Comment: Perseverance helicopter probe.
Video: NASA / JPL-Caltech / ASU / MSSS
It does not carry any scientific instruments, and its mission is to test the possibilities of flights on extraterrestrial objects for potential use in future reconnaissance programs. For example, NASA has already approved a mission called Dragonfly, which aims to use a flying machine to explore the surface of Titan, one of Saturn’s moons. It was planned for sometime in the next decade.
NASA previously stated that it would consider a potentially successful flight of the machine a milestone that could be compared to the first flight of a heavier-than-air object on our planet, which was demonstrated in 1903 by the Wright brothers. She also announced that creativity had brought with them a small portion of the sail of their pilot plane to Mars.
“If today (and later) helicopter flights of Ingenuity succeed and test the capabilities of the flying machine on Mars, we can see larger drones in the future with a carrying capacity of up to 2 kg of useful scientific equipment,” commented on Twitter this morning astronomer Michel Vaclavik of the Space Office Czech, who also works at the Institute of Aircraft Technology, Faculty of Mechanical Engineering, Czech Technical University in Prague.