NASA revealed details of the first flight of the Martian helicopter and promised a new launch in a few days

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NASA revealed details of the first flight of the Martian helicopter and promised a new launch in a few days

On Monday, NASA’s Martian helicopter Ingenuity became the first rotorcraft in history to fly a controlled flight on another planet. After the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) team confirmed the success during the broadcast, curious details were released in an official press release.

NASA
NASA

For example, the team posted a second black-and-white photograph (also in 640×480 pixels) taken by the drone’s navigation camera, but just before landing. It clearly shows the surface of Mars and the helicopter’s shadow, and in the corners, you can also see the edges of the landing supports. Experts made an interesting observation: even at this close distance, the dust raised by the helicopter is almost invisible – it does not interfere with observation at all. In the Martian atmosphere, it is more difficult to pick up dust with propellers. As a reminder, this camera is used by automation to track the surface during flight.

The solar-powered helicopter took off for the first time on April 19 at 10:34 Moscow time. The altimeter data indicate that Ingenuity reached the specified height of 3 meters for this operation and maintained a stable hover for 30 seconds. The spacecraft then descended, touching the surface of Mars: in total, the flight lasted 39.1 seconds.

The first video of Inventiveness’s short takeoff and landing was captured by the Perseverance rover from a distance of 64.3 meters. The video resolution is 720p, and the frame rate is only 6.7 per second. Nevertheless, it allows you to see the process of the helicopter takeoff, its hovering at an altitude of about 3 meters, a turn around its axis, and landing:

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The demonstration was autonomous – all piloting was carried out by onboard guidance, navigation, and control systems, working according to algorithms developed by the JPL team. Since the data must be sent to and returned from the Red Planet using orbiting satellites, the drone cannot be controlled directly, and the flight cannot be observed from Earth in real-time.

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NASA named the makeshift airfield, the first outside Earth, from which the spacecraft took off, the Wright Brothers Field, in honor of the inventors from Dayton. 117 years ago, Wilbur and Orville Wright (Wilbur, Orville Wright) managed to design an airplane and make the world’s first controlled human flight in a heavier-than-air engine with an engine.

The 1.8 kg “Ingenuity” with a blade span of 1.2 m is a purely technological demonstration and does not contain any scientific instruments onboard. It was intended to prove the possibility of future exploration of Mars with similar propeller-driven aircraft. The flight was challenging. The red planet has significantly less gravity (a third of the earth) and a fragile atmosphere (1% at the surface compared to our planet). This means there are few molecules in the air with which the blades of the two coaxial Ingenuity rotors can interact for flight. Curiously, the helicopter contains unique components and widely used parts – many from the smartphone industry. Some were first tested in deep space on this mission.

In the coming days, the JPL team will receive and analyze all data and images from the test flight and formulate a second experimental test flight plan, which will take place no earlier than April 22. If the helicopter passes the second flight test, the team will decide how best to expand the flight building.

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The car-sized Perseverance rover landed inside the 45 km diameter Jezero crater on February 18, when the 1.8 kg helicopter was still firmly attached to the bottom of the rover when folded. After dropping the casing, “Perseverance” deployed “Ingenuity,” brought the helicopter battery charge to 100%, unloaded it to the surface of Mars, and drove a short distance, allowing sunlight to reach the helicopter powered by solar panels. Until this moment, the drone was powered by the rover, and now it receives energy exclusively from the Sun – it is required not only for flights but also for heating during cold Martian nights (the temperature drops to -90 ° C). Recently NASAposted the first low-resolution photo from the helicopter’s lower service camera, followed by a rover’s self-portrait with Ingenuity in the background. Due to a problematic propeller test, the first takeoff of Inventiveness, scheduled for April 11, had to be postponed.

 

 

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