NASA’s Mars Helicopter Aces fiftieth Flight – “We Are Not in Martian Kansas Anymore”

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NASA's Ingenuity Mars Helicopter

On this illustration, NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter stands on the Crimson Planet’s floor as NASA’s Perseverance rover (partially seen on the left) rolls away. It accomplished its fiftieth flight on April 13, 2023, overlaying over 1,057 ft and reaching a brand new altitude document of 59 ft. Initially designed for under 5 flights, Ingenuity has exceeded expectations, offering invaluable flight information and imagery for future Mars missions. Whereas some parts present indicators of wear and tear, Ingenuity’s mission continues to push the bounds of expertise and exploration on Mars. Credit score: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The history-making rotorcraft has just lately been negotiating a number of the most hazardous terrain it’s encountered on the Crimson Planet.

NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter marked its 50th flight on April 13, 2023, achieving new altitude and distance records. Despite facing challenging terrain and increased frequency of flights, Ingenuity continues to provide valuable data for future Mars missions.

NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter has completed its 50th flight on Mars. The first aircraft on another world reached the half-century mark on April 13, traveling over 1,057.09 feet (322.2 meters) in 145.7 seconds. The helicopter also achieved a new altitude record of 59 feet (18 meters) before alighting near the half-mile-wide (800-meter-wide) “Belva Crater.”

Ingenuity at Airfield D

Ingenuity at Airfield D: This image of NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter was taken by the Mastcam-Z instrument of the Perseverance rover on June 15, 2021, the 114th Martian day, or sol, of the mission. The location, “Airfield D” (the fourth airfield), is just east of the “Séítah” geologic unit. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU/MSSS

With Flight 50 in the mission logbook, the helicopter team plans to perform another repositioning flight before exploring the “Fall River Pass” region of Jezero Crater.

“Just as the Wright brothers continued their experiments well after that momentous day at Kitty Hawk in 1903, the Ingenuity team continues to pursue and learn from the flight operations of the first aircraft on another world,” said Lori Glaze, director of the Planetary Science Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

NASA’s Ingenuity Mars helicopter made historical past when it achieved the primary powered, managed flight on one other planet on April 19, 2021. Rather less than two years later, on April 13, 2023, it accomplished its fiftieth flight. Listed here are some highlights from the rotorcraft’s journeys on the Crimson Planet. Credit score: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU/MSSS

Ingenuity landed on the Red Planet in February 2021 attached to the belly of NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover and will soon mark the two-year anniversary of its first flight, which took place on April 19, 2021. Designed as a technology demonstration that would fly no more than five times, the helicopter was intended to prove powered, controlled flight on another planet was possible. But Ingenuity exceeded expectations and transitioned into being an operations demonstration.

Every time Ingenuity goes airborne, it covers new ground and offers a perspective no previous planetary mission could achieve. Imagery from the helicopter has not only demonstrated how aircraft could serve as forward scouts for future planetary expeditions, but it has even come in handy for the Perseverance team.

Teddy Tzanetos at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory gives an replace on the company’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter and discusses the way it’s inspiring future aerial exploration of the Crimson Planet. Credit score: NASA/JPL-Caltech

By testing the helicopter’s limits, engineers are gathering flight information that can be utilized by engineers engaged on designs for doable future Mars helicopters. That features the individuals designing the Mars Pattern Return marketing campaign’s proposed Sample Recovery Helicopters.

Riskier Terrain

Since leaving the comparatively flat confines of Jezero Crater’s flooring on January 19, Ingenuity has flown 11 occasions, setting new velocity and altitude information of 14.5 mph (6.5 meters per second) and 59 ft (18 meters) alongside the way in which.

Though the deep chill of winter and regional mud occasions (which might block the Solar’s rays from reaching the helicopter’s photo voltaic panel) have abated, Ingenuity continues to brown out at evening. Because of this, the Helicopter Base Station on the rover must seek for the rotorcraft’s sign every morning on the time Ingenuity is predicted to get up. And when the helicopter does fly, it now should navigate rugged and comparatively uncharted terrain, touchdown in spots that may be surrounded by hazards.

NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter is seen right here at the start line of its forty seventh flight on Mars. The video was captured by the Mastcam-Z imager aboard NASA’s Perseverance rover on March 9, 2023. Credit score: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU/MSSS

“We aren’t in Martian Kansas anymore,” mentioned Josh Anderson, Ingenuity operations lead at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. “We’re flying over the dried-up remnants of an historical river that’s crammed with sand dunes, boulders, and rocks, and surrounded by hills that might have us for lunch. And whereas we just lately upgraded the navigation software program onboard to assist decide secure airfields, each flight remains to be a white-knuckler.”

Frequent Flyer

Past dealing with more difficult terrain, Ingenuity may also fly at a larger frequency within the coming days as a result of the helicopter wants to stay inside digital earshot of the rover. With its AutoNav capability, Perseverance can journey a whole bunch of meters every day.

“Ingenuity depends on Perseverance to behave as a communications relay between it and mission controllers right here at JPL,” mentioned Anderson. “If the rover will get too far forward or disappears behind a hill, we might lose communications. The rover crew has a job to do and a schedule to maintain. So it’s crucial Ingenuity retains up and is within the lead each time doable.”

Perseverance just lately accomplished exploring “Foel Drygarn,” a scientific goal that will include hydrated silica (which is of sturdy astrobiological curiosity). It’s at the moment headed to “Mount Julian,” which can present a panoramic view into close by Belva Crater.

NASA Ingenuity Helicopter on Mars Illustration

Illustration of NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter on Mars. Credit score: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Feats of Ingenuity

Constructed with many off-the-shelf parts, similar to smartphone processors and cameras, Ingenuity is now 23 Earth months and 45 flights past its anticipated lifetime. The rotorcraft has flown for over 89 minutes and greater than 7.1 miles (11.6 kilometers).

“Once we first flew, we thought we’d be extremely fortunate to eke out 5 flights,” mentioned Teddy Tzanetos, Ingenuity crew lead at JPL. “We’ve exceeded our anticipated cumulative flight time since our expertise demonstration wrapped by 1,250% and anticipated distance flown by 2,214%.”

Surpassing expectations like this comes at a value, nevertheless. With some helicopter parts exhibiting indicators of wear and tear and the terrain changing into more difficult, the Ingenuity crew acknowledges that each nice mission should finally come to an finish. “We’ve come thus far, and we need to go farther,” mentioned Tzanetos. “However we now have identified because the very starting our time at Mars was restricted, and each operational day is a blessing. Whether or not Ingenuity’s mission ends tomorrow, subsequent week, or months from now’s one thing nobody can predict at current. What I can predict is that when it does, we’ll have one heck of a celebration.”

Ingenuity Begins to Spin Its Blades

NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter does a sluggish spin check of its blades, on April 8, 2021, the forty eighth Martian day, or sol, of the mission. This picture was captured by the Navigation Cameras on NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover. Credit score: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Extra About Ingenuity

JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory) constructed the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter and oversees the mission on behalf of NASA Headquarters. Help for the endeavor comes from NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, with NASA’s Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, California, and NASA’s Langley Analysis Heart in Hampton, Virginia, contributing substantial flight efficiency evaluation and technical steering through the improvement of Ingenuity. Firms similar to AeroVironment Inc., Qualcomm, and SolAero additionally lent their experience in design and equipped key car parts. The Mars Helicopter Supply System was designed and produced by Lockheed Area.

On the helm of the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter program at NASA Headquarters is Dave Lavery, serving as this system government.

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