NASA Mars Helicopter Ingenuity Makes Longest and Quickest Flight

NASA’s Mars helicopter went up once more, going quicker and touring a complete distance that was in regards to the size of an American soccer discipline on its third journey by the wispy air of Mars.

Like the primary two flights, the small experimental flying robotic, named Ingenuity, completely executed its directions from Earth. At 1:31 a.m. Jap time — 12:33 p.m. native Mars time — it lifted 16 ft off the bottom, then flew a round-trip distance of 328 ft earlier than touchdown again the place it began.

That was about 25 occasions so far as the second flight flew three days in the past. The helicopter reached a prime pace of 4.5 miles per hour, and the flight lasted about one minute and 20 seconds.

The flight was a take a look at of the helicopter’s navigation system, which visually retains monitor of its location by evaluating floor options recorded by its onboard digicam. The farther it traveled, the extra pictures its digicam needed to take to recollect the panorama under. If it flew too quick, the helicopter might lose monitor of the place it was.

“That is the primary time we’ve seen the algorithm for the digicam working over an extended distance,” stated MiMi Aung, the helicopter’s mission supervisor, stated in a NASA information launch. “You possibly can’t do that inside a take a look at chamber.”

Credit score…NASA/JPL-Caltech

Ingenuity, about three ft tall, is an $85 million mission to exhibit that managed flight, like an airplane or a helicopter, is possible on Mars, the place the environment on the floor is simply 1 p.c of Earth’s.

It was tacked on to Perseverance, NASA’s newest Mars rover, which arrived on the pink planet in February. Earlier than Perseverance heads off on its principal mission — to search hints of historical life in a dried-up river delta — the Ingenuity workforce has 30 Martian days, or about 31 Earth days, to finish 5 take a look at flights of the helicopter.

“As we speak’s flight was what we deliberate for, and but it was nothing wanting wonderful,” stated Dave Lavery, the helicopter mission’s program government. “With this flight, we’re demonstrating important capabilities that may allow the addition of an aerial dimension to future Mars missions.”

Final Monday, Ingenuity made historical past as the primary powered plane to fly on one other planet. The primary flight was a brief one: a easy up-and-down that totaled 39.1 seconds off the bottom. The second flight, on Thursday, went a bit larger and made a brief lateral transfer.

With the success of the primary three flights, the helicopter’s engineers have a bit greater than every week to finish the ultimate two, which can additional push Ingenuity’s capabilities. Ms. Aung, the mission’s supervisor, stated after the primary flight final week that she hoped the ultimate one would journey so far as some 2,300 ft from its start line.

The fourth flight will take off in a couple of days, NASA stated.

There are at the moment no plans to place a second helicopter on Mars. However Bob Balaram, the mission’s chief engineer, stated he and his colleagues had begun sketching out designs for a bigger Mars helicopter able to carrying some 10 kilos of science gear.

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