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NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter aces first longer-range flight on Mars – Spaceflight Now

NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter flew farther and quicker Sunday than the rotorcraft’s first two take a look at flights within the Martian environment, touring the size of a soccer subject whereas exceeding distances and achieved throughout testing on Earth, officers mentioned.

On Sunday’s take a look at flight, the diminutive rotor-driven drone flew a distance of some 164 toes (50 meters) from its takeoff location, then returned to the identical flat patch of Martian terrain for a managed , logging round 330 toes of distance traveled in about 80 seconds.

Like Ingenuity’s earlier two take a look at flights, the helicopter took off at noon native time on Mars. As a result of the size of the Martian day is sort of 40 minutes longer than a day on Earth, the flight occasions are getting earlier in Earth time.

The helicopter’s third flight started at 4:31 a.m. EDT (0831 GMT) with a climb to about 16 toes (5 meters), the identical altitude achieved on Ingenuity’s second flight final week. However as an alternative of a lateral transfer of only a few toes, the helicopter flew downrange 164 toes and reached a prime velocity of almost 4.5 mph (2 meters per second), based on NASA.

That’s farther and quicker than the helicopter may fly inside NASA’s take a look at chamber on Earth, which engineers used to the rarefied carbon dioxide environment of Mars.

Knowledge confirming the profitable flight arrived at NASA’s Jet Laboratory in California at 10:16 a.m. EDT (1416 GMT) Sunday, following a relay route from the Ingenuity helicopter by way of a wi-fi base station on the Perseverance rover, then to an spacecraft excessive above Mars, which transmitted the telemetry again to Earth.

“At this time’s flight was what we deliberate for, and but it was nothing in need of wonderful,” mentioned Dave Lavery, the venture’s program govt for Ingenuity Mars Helicopter at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “With this flight, we’re demonstrating vital capabilities that can allow the addition of an aerial dimension to Mars missions.”

A navigation digicam on NASA’s Perseverance rover took this image of the Ingenuity helicopter on its third flight Sunday. Credit score: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Engineers are analyzing the information as they develop plans for a fourth take a look at flight within the coming days. MiMi Aung, Ingenuity’s venture supervisor at JPL, mentioned final week that engineers might try extra daring long-range flights to push the helicopter to its limits.

Aung instructed she want to see a flight touring as much as 600 or 700 meters, or greater than a 3rd of a mile. The helicopter makes use of  a laser altimeter and a black and white digicam to find out its altitude and place relative to the Martian panorama.

The helicopter additionally wants to in vary of the bottom station on the Perseverance rover, which launched the rotorcraft onto the floor of Mars earlier this month. Perseverance landed on the Crimson Planet on Feb. 18, with a major aim of finding and sampling rocks that may comprise proof of historic life.

The Ingenuity helicopter is a demonstration, and its mission is secondary to Perseverance’s prime science aim. Managers put aside a month of Perseverance’s time to help the Ingenuity flight demonstrations.

The rover is parked about 211 toes (64 meters) from the helicopter’s makeshift “airfield,” which NASA dubbed Wright Brothers Subject following Ingenuity’s first historic flight of an plane within the environment of one other planet.

Just like the helicopter’s two prior flights, Perseverance’s mast digicam system recorded video of Ingenuity’s traverse by way of the Martian environment Sunday. This time, Ingenuity flew out of the rover’s digicam subject of view earlier than returning for touchdown.

The helicopter’s physique is in regards to the dimension of a tissue , with twin counter-rotating rotor blades spanning round Four toes (1.2 meters) tip-to-tip. The craft weighed about Four kilos in Earth’s gravity — equal to 1.eight kilograms — and weighs about 1.5 kilos within the weaker gravity of Mars.

A black and white navigation digicam on the Ingenuity helicopter captured this view of its shadow on a take a look at flight Sunday. Credit score: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Ingenuity’s longer flights require the helicopter to take extra photos with its again and white navigation digicam. The imagery feeds into the helicopter’s flight pc, which makes use of a software program algorithm to make corrections to the craft’s trajectory as much as 500 occasions each second.

“That is the primary time we’ve seen the algorithm for the digicam operating over an extended distance,” Aung mentioned in a press release. “You’ll be able to’t do that inside a take a look at chamber.”

With a purpose to deal with the calls for of autonomous flying, the Qualcomm processor on-board Ingenuity has at the very least an order of magnitude the pc energy of the unit on the Perseverance rover, NASA officers mentioned.

Whereas the helicopter’s down-facing black and white digicam tracks terrain options, a digicam pointing towards the horizon snaps aerial photographs in shade.

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Observe Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.

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