WASHINGTON — NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter carried out its third flight on Mars April 25, setting it up for its ultimate, and most difficult, assessments.
Ingenuity took off from the Martian floor at 4:31 a.m. Jap, going as much as an altitude of 5 meters. It then flew 50 meters downrange and again earlier than touching down 80 seconds after takeoff, in line with knowledge that arrived on Earth about six hours after the flight. The helicopter reached a high pace of two meters per second throughout the flight.
This flight, like the 2 earlier ones April 19 and 22, went in line with plan as controllers expanded Ingenuity’s flight envelope. On its first flight the helicopter went up three meters and again down, whereas on the second it went to an altitude of 5 meters, then went two meters sideways and again earlier than touchdown.
“At present’s flight was what we deliberate for, and but it was nothing in need of wonderful,” Dave Lavery, program government for the mission at NASA Headquarters, stated in a press release. “With this flight, we’re demonstrating crucial capabilities that may allow the addition of an aerial dimension to future Mars missions.”
One key side of the most recent flight was to check the helicopter’s navigation system, which depends on a digital camera that appears down to trace floor options. That system was examined on the bottom, however in a vacuum chamber the place the helicopter might transfer solely about half a meter. “That is the primary time we’ve seen the algorithm for the digital camera working over an extended distance,” MiMi Aung, mission supervisor for Ingenuity on the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, stated within the assertion.
These first three flights adopted a script that mission engineers developed for Ingenuity earlier than arriving on Mars. The mission now has just a little greater than per week left in its check marketing campaign for as much as two extra check flights, particulars of which NASA has not but launched. Within the JPL launch concerning the third flight, the middle stated solely that the fourth flight would happen “in a couple of days’ time.”
At an April 19 briefing after the primary flight, mission officers stated they might use the expertise of the primary three flights to see how they will push the bounds of Ingenuity for the ultimate flights. “On the whole phrases, what we’re speaking about right here goes greater, going additional, going quicker, stretching the capabilities of the helicopter,” stated Håvard Grip, Ingenuity Mars Helicopter chief pilot at JPL. “However precisely how far in these instructions is a dialogue we have to have.”
“We might be pushing the envelope,” Aung stated at that briefing. “We’re going to go additional, quicker, particularly in direction of the top of the experimental window.”
She stated the mission would attempt to push the 1.8-kilogram helicopter to its limits on these ultimate flights, figuring out that it might end in a crash. “We do wish to push it to the restrict,” she stated. “Finally, we count on the helicopter will meet its restrict, however that data is extraordinarily essential. It is a pathfinder, that is about discovering any unknown unknowns that we will’t mannequin. We actually wish to know what the bounds are, so we might be pushing the restrict very intentionally.”
“We actually wish to make sure, when all the things is alleged and completed, we all know the total scope of what’s attainable with that sort of flying machine,” added Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA affiliate administrator for science, at that briefing. “For us, that’s actually crucial.”