Tuesday, 21 September, 2021


NASA Ingenuity helicopter makes historic flight on Mars

Nasa successfully flies small helicopter on Mars Watch NASA mission control live as the Ingenuity helicopter attempts to fly on Mars on Monday
Bennie Garza | 19 April, 2021, 16:51

NASA's Ingenuity Mars Helicopter took a picture of its own shadow while hovering over the planet's surface.

Engineers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory broke into cheers and applause as downlink engineer Michael Starch confirmed that "Ingenuity has performed its first flight of a powered aircraft on another planet".

The team will continue to receive and analyze data in the coming days, then formulate a plan for the second flight, which would be no earlier than April 22.

This is the first time a propelled vehicle has flown on another planet.

This is because of the distance between Earth and Mars - it takes more than 11 minutes to get a radio signal back to Earth.

The thin air on Mars, which has less than 1% of Earth's atmospheric pressure, also makes it harder to achieve lift, although this is partially offset by a weaker gravitational pull.

Images and video, revealed during the livestream, show the brief moments in which the Ingenuity helicopter propelled itself above the surface of Mars, before descending in a straight line for a controlled landing. An unexpectedly strong wind gust is one potential peril that could spoil the flight.

The successful flight of Ingenuity will also have implications for the drone revolution on Earth, said Dr Flannery, who has also worked on a number of projects designing robot and drone technologies for NASA. "Even rocky terrain is fairly inaccessible to the rovers but much more easily accessed by a rotorcraft". But the NASA officials felt that Ingenuity-which means the skill of thinking, performing, or using things in new ways, esp.to solve problems (definition as per the Cambridge dictionary)- was a suitable name for the helicopter whose team had given a lot of creative thinking to get the mission off the ground.

"Instead of a large rover carrying a small helicopter, imagine maybe a large helicopter carrying a small rover in the future", Ravich said. Last weekend, the rover dropped the helicopter to the Martian surface, and then drove to a viewing point about 60 yards away.

"I'm sure our community will look at any and all options to bring controlled flight to bear as a tool of research and exploration", Zurbuchen said.

"We've been talking for so long about our Wright brothers moment, and here it is". Later flights will be increasingly ambitious, going to altitudes of up to five meters and traveling dozens of meters downrange and back.

"There will be surprises, and you will be learning about them right at the same time that we will".

"The moment our team has been waiting for is nearly here", Ingenuity project manager MiMi Aung said at a recent briefing at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) near Los Angeles. "The lifetime will be determined by how well it lands, pretty much". The helicopter's main task is to carry out a technology demonstration to test the first powered flight on Mars, which it seems to have accomplished today. The worst-case scenario, Ravich said, would have been if Ingenuity didn't fly at all.

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