NASA Ingenuity Mars helicopter prepares for first flight

NASA Ingenuity Mars Helicopter Prepares for First Flight
An illustration of NASA’s Ingenuity Helicopter flying on Mars. Credit score: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Now uncocooned from its protecting carbon-fiber defend, the helicopter is being readied for its subsequent steps.


NASA is concentrating on no sooner than April Eight for the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter to make the primary try at , managed flight of an plane on one other planet. Earlier than the 4-pound (1.8-kilogram) rotorcraft can try its first flight, nonetheless, each it and its workforce should meet a collection of daunting milestones.

Ingenuity stays hooked up to the stomach of NASA’s Perseverance rover, which touched down on Mars Feb. 18. On March 21, the rover deployed the guitar case-shaped graphite composite particles defend that protected Ingenuity throughout touchdown. The rover presently is in transit to the “airfield” the place Ingenuity will try to fly. As soon as deployed, Ingenuity may have 30 Martian days, or sols, (31 Earth days) to conduct its take a look at flight marketing campaign.

“When NASA’s Sojourner rover landed on Mars in 1997, it proved that roving the Crimson Planet was potential and fully redefined our method to how we discover Mars. Equally, we wish to study in regards to the potential Ingenuity has for the way forward for science analysis,” mentioned Lori Glaze, director of the Planetary Science Division at NASA . “Aptly named, Ingenuity is a know-how demonstration that goals to be the primary powered flight on one other world and, if profitable, may additional develop our horizons and broaden the scope of what’s potential with Mars exploration.”

Flying in a managed method on Mars is way tougher than flying on Earth. The Crimson Planet has important gravity (about one-third that of Earth’s), however its environment is simply 1% as dense as Earth’s on the floor. Throughout Martian daytime, the planet’s floor receives solely about half the quantity of photo voltaic power that reaches Earth throughout its daytime, and nighttime temperatures can drop as little as minus 130 levels Fahrenheit (minus 90 levels Celsius), which may freeze and crack unprotected electrical elements.

To suit inside the accessible lodging supplied by the Perseverance rover, the Ingenuity helicopter should be small. To fly within the Mars surroundings, it should be light-weight. To outlive the frigid Martian nights, it will need to have sufficient power to energy inner heaters. The system—from the efficiency of its rotors in rarified air to its photo voltaic panels, electrical heaters, and different elements—has been examined and retested within the vacuum chambers and take a look at labs of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California.

“Each step we’ve got taken since this six years in the past has been uncharted territory within the historical past of plane,” mentioned Bob Balaram, Mars Helicopter chief engineer at JPL. “And whereas getting deployed to the floor can be a giant problem, surviving that first evening on Mars alone, with out the rover defending it and maintaining it powered, can be a fair greater one.”

Deploying the Helicopter

Earlier than Ingenuity takes its first flight on Mars, it should be squarely in the midst of its airfield—a 33-by-33-foot (10-by-10-meter) patch of Martian actual property chosen for its flatness and lack of obstructions. As soon as the helicopter and rover groups verify that Perseverance is located precisely the place they need it to be contained in the airfield, the flowery course of to deploy the helicopter on the floor of Mars begins.

“As with every part with the helicopter, this kind of deployment has by no means been finished earlier than,” mentioned Farah Alibay, Mars Helicopter lead for the Perseverance rover. “As soon as we begin the deployment there isn’t any turning again. All actions are carefully coordinated, irreversible, and depending on one another. If there’s even a touch that one thing is not going as anticipated, we could determine to carry off for a sol or till we’ve got a greater concept what’s going on.”

The helicopter deployment course of will take about six sols (six days, 4 hours on Earth). On the primary sol, the workforce on Earth will activate a bolt-breaking gadget, releasing a locking mechanism that helped maintain the helicopter firmly towards the rover’s stomach throughout launch and Mars touchdown. The next sol, they may hearth a cable-cutting pyrotechnic gadget, enabling the mechanized arm that holds Ingenuity to start rotating the helicopter out of its horizontal place. That is additionally when the rotorcraft will lengthen two of its 4 touchdown legs.

Throughout the third sol of the deployment sequence, a small electrical motor will end rotating Ingenuity till it latches, bringing the helicopter fully vertical. Throughout the fourth sol, the ultimate two touchdown legs will snap into place. On every of these 4 sols, the Extensive Angle Topographic Sensor for Operations and eNgineering (WATSON) imager will take affirmation photographs of Ingenuity because it incrementally unfolds into its flight configuration. In its ultimate place, the helicopter will dangle suspended at about 5 inches (13 centimeters) over the Martian floor. At that time, solely a single bolt and a pair dozen tiny electrical contacts will join the helicopter to Perseverance. On the fifth sol of deployment, the workforce will use the ultimate alternative to make the most of Perseverance as an influence supply and cost Ingenuity’s six battery cells.

NASA Ingenuity Mars Helicopter Prepares for First Flight
The particles defend, a protecting masking on the underside of NASA’s Perseverance rover, was launched on March 21, 2021, the 30th Martian day, or sol, of the mission. The particles defend protects the company’s Ingenuity helicopter throughout touchdown; releasing it permits the helicopter to rotate down out of the rover’s stomach. This picture was taken by the WATSON (Extensive Angle Topographic Sensor for Operations and eNgineering) digital camera on the (Scanning Liveable Environments with Raman and Luminescence for Organics and Chemical compounds) instrument, positioned on the finish of the rover’s lengthy robotic arm. Credit score: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

“As soon as we reduce the wire with Perseverance and drop these ultimate 5 inches to the floor, we wish to have our huge good friend drive away as shortly as potential so we are able to get the Solar’s rays on our photo voltaic panel and start recharging our batteries,” mentioned Balaram.

On the sixth and ultimate scheduled sol of this deployment section, the workforce might want to verify three issues: that Ingenuity’s 4 legs are firmly on the floor of Jezero Crater, that the rover did, certainly, drive about 16 ft (about 5 meters) away, and that each helicopter and rover are speaking by way of their onboard radios. This milestone additionally initiates the 30-sol clock throughout which period all preflight checks and flight checks should happen.

“Ingenuity is an engineering flight take a look at—we wish to see if we are able to fly at Mars,” mentioned MiMi Aung, undertaking supervisor for Ingenuity Mars Helicopter at JPL. “There are not any science devices onboard and no targets to acquire scientific info. We’re assured that each one the engineering information we wish to acquire each on the floor of Mars and aloft could be finished inside this 30-sol window.”

As with deployment, the helicopter and rover groups will method the upcoming flight take a look at methodically. If the workforce misses or has questions on an essential preflight milestone, they might take a number of sols to higher perceive the difficulty. If the helicopter survives the primary evening of the sequence interval on the floor of Mars, nonetheless, the workforce will spend the following a number of sols doing every part potential to make sure a profitable flight, together with wiggling the rotor blades and verifying the efficiency of the inertial measurement unit, in addition to testing all the rotor system throughout a spin-up to 2,537 rpm (whereas Ingenuity’s touchdown gear stay firmly on the floor).

The First Flight Check on Mars

As soon as the workforce is able to try the primary flight, Perseverance will obtain and relay to Ingenuity the ultimate flight directions from JPL mission controllers. A number of elements will decide the exact time for the flight, together with modeling of native wind patterns plus measurements taken by the Mars Environmental Dynamics Analyzer (MEDA) aboard Perseverance. Ingenuity will run its rotors to 2,537 rpm and, if all ultimate self-checks look good, raise off. After climbing at a price of about three ft per second (1 meter per second), the helicopter will hover at 10 ft (three meters) above the floor for as much as 30 seconds. Then, the Mars Helicopter will descend and contact again down on the Martian floor.

A number of hours after the primary flight has occurred, Perseverance will downlink Ingenuity’s first set of engineering information and, presumably, pictures and video from the rover’s Navigation Cameras and Mastcam-Z. From the info downlinked that first after the flight, the Mars Helicopter workforce expects to have the ability to decide if their first try to fly at Mars was a hit.

On the next sol, all of the remaining engineering information collected throughout the flight, in addition to some low-resolution black-and-white imagery from the helicopter’s personal Navigation Digicam, might be downlinked to JPL. The third sol of this section, the 2 pictures taken by the helicopter’s high-resolution colour digital camera ought to arrive. The Mars Helicopter workforce will use all info accessible to find out when and transfer ahead with their subsequent take a look at.

“Mars is tough,” mentioned Aung. “Our plan is to work regardless of the Crimson Planet throws at us the exact same we dealt with each problem we have confronted over the previous six years—collectively, with tenacity and loads of laborious work, and somewhat Ingenuity.”

A Piece of Historical past

Whereas Ingenuity will try the primary powered, managed flight on one other planet, the primary powered, managed flight on Earth passed off Dec. 17, 1903, on the windswept dunes of Kill Satan Hill, close to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. Orville and Wright lined 120 ft in 12 seconds throughout the first flight. The Wright made 4 flights that day, every longer than the earlier.

A small quantity of the fabric that lined one of many wings of the Wright brothers’ plane, often called the Flyer, throughout the first flight is now aboard Ingenuity. An insulative tape was used to wrap the small swatch of material round a cable positioned beneath the helicopter’s photo voltaic panel. The Wrights used the identical kind of fabric—an unbleached muslin referred to as “Delight of the West”—to cowl their glider and plane wings starting in 1901. The Apollo 11 crew flew a special piece of the fabric, together with a small splinter of wooden from the Wright Flyer, to the moon and again throughout their iconic mission in July 1969.


NASA will try first off-world flight in early April


Supplied by
Jet Propulsion Laboratory

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NASA Ingenuity Mars helicopter prepares for first flight (2021, March 24)
retrieved 27 March 2021
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