NASA’s Mars Helicopter Ingenuity Successfully Makes Historic First Flight

NASA’s Mars Ingenuity helicopter made history Monday when the small but fearless drone became the first spacecraft to fly on another world, the space agency said.

Despite the extreme cold, dangerously thin air, and inadequate flight software, the $85 million autonomous helicopter spun its two carbon fiber rotor blades and flew about 3 meters into the Martian sky. It hovered briefly in the wind and landed safely at about 3:30. ET on Monday on Earth, NASA officials said. This flight was the first of five scheduled for the next 30 days.

Engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California clapped and cheered when flight data was sent to Earth from the engineering center Monday.

It’s real, it’s real, said the Ingenuity project manager.

Mi Mi Aung,

She happily slaps the table in front of her and gives him a thumbs up. We can now say that man has launched a drone on another planet.

Ingenuity reached the Jezero crater on Mars in February. NASA’s Perseverance rover was there to capture this historic flight.

The drone briefly hovered about 3 meters in the thin air of Mars before launching on the 19th. April landed safely on the surface.

Photo:

Associated Press.

The drone, which is smaller than a picnic basket, was developed as a technical experiment to demonstrate the feasibility of powered flight to the Red Planet and help NASA plan for a future in which drones will play a key role in exploring the planet. These drones could one day provide access to terrain that is too remote or difficult for, say, vagrants. B. Mars Marineris, the largest canyon in the solar system, or its volcanic shield Olympus Mons, which is about 2.5 times higher than Mount Everest.

This is the next step in expanding our ability to explore another planet, the NASA acting administrator said.

Steve Jurczyk

of foolishness. The helicopter could be used as a scout for robotic missions to see beyond the horizon, and possibly as a partner for astronauts on Mars.

During its flight, the Ingenuity was on autopilot, out of sight, with no direct control or contact with the men and women on Earth who had sent it to the attic, because radio signals took too long to travel between planets to be intercepted by a human operator.

Intuition Close

Ingenuity, NASA’s first helicopter flight to another planet, flies autonomously and has special features that help it stay airborne in the thin Martian atmosphere.

 

Transmits flight data to the Perseverance rover, which transmits it to Earth via satellite.

Charge the Ingenuity lithium-ion batteries.

Rotor blades

The carbon fiber blades are larger, stiffer and spin faster than would be necessary if the technology was designed for a flight to Earth.

Autopilot, sensors and batteries

The drone’s insulated main body is equipped with a navigation camera, a microprocessor similar to those found in many smartphones, and lithium-ion batteries that can withstand temperatures as low as minus 130⁰ degrees at night.

 

Transmits flight data to the Perseverance rover, which transmits it to Earth via satellite.

Charge the Ingenuity lithium-ion batteries.

Rotor blades

The carbon fiber blades are larger, stiffer and spin faster than would be necessary if the technology was designed for a flight to Earth.

Autopilot, sensors and batteries

The drone’s insulated main body is equipped with a navigation camera, a microprocessor similar to those found in many smartphones, and lithium-ion batteries that can withstand temperatures as low as minus 130⁰ degrees at night.

 

Transmits flight data to the Perseverance rover, which transmits it to Earth via satellite.

Charge the Ingenuity lithium-ion batteries.

Rotor blades

The carbon fiber blades are larger, stiffer and spin faster than would be necessary if the technology was designed for a flight to Earth.

Autopilot, sensors and batteries

The drone’s insulated main body is equipped with a navigation camera, a microprocessor similar to those found in many smartphones, and lithium-ion batteries that can withstand temperatures as low as minus 130⁰ degrees at night.

 

Transmits flight data to the Perseverance rover, which transmits it to Earth via satellite.

Rotor blades

The carbon fiber blades are larger, stiffer and spin faster than would be necessary if the technology was designed for a flight to Earth.

Loading

Lithium-ion batteries of ingenuity.

Autopilot, sensors

and batteries

The drone’s insulated main body is equipped with a navigation camera, a microprocessor similar to those found in many smartphones, and lithium-ion batteries that can withstand temperatures as low as minus 130⁰ degrees at night.

 

No conventional aircraft can fly on Mars because the Martian atmosphere is too thin. To make the technology fly, NASA engineers gave it ultralight, compact parts and rotors that generate enough lift to carry it through the air. The rotor blades of the Ingenuity rotate five times faster than a conventional helicopter.

Air density on Mars

The density of the air on Mars is less than 1% of that on Earth, with the density at the surface roughly equal to that at an altitude of 35 km (22 miles) above the Earth.

Helicopter on Land

are not used to flying.

above 10,000 feet.

 

No conventional aircraft can fly on Mars because the Martian atmosphere is too thin. To make the technology fly, NASA engineers gave it ultralight, compact parts and rotors that generate enough lift to carry it through the air. The rotor blades of the Ingenuity rotate five times faster than a conventional helicopter.

Air density on Mars

The air density on Mars is less than 1% of that on Earth, with the density at the surface roughly equal to that at an altitude of 35 km (22 miles).

above the ground.

All helicopters on the ground

not to fly above 10,000 feet.

 

No conventional aircraft can fly on Mars because the Martian atmosphere is too thin. To make the technology fly, NASA engineers gave it ultralight, compact parts and rotors that generate enough lift to carry it through the air. The rotor blades of the Ingenuity rotate five times faster than a conventional helicopter.

Air density on Mars

The air density on Mars is less than 1% of that on Earth, with the density at the surface roughly equal to that at an altitude of 35 km (22 miles).

above the ground.

Helicopter around the world

not to fly above 10,000 feet.

 

No conventional aircraft can fly on Mars because the Martian atmosphere is too thin. To make the technology fly, NASA engineers gave it ultralight, compact parts and rotors that generate enough lift to carry it through the air. The rotor blades of the Ingenuity rotate five times faster than a conventional helicopter.

the density of the air on Mars

The density of the air on Mars is less than 1% of that on Earth, with the density at the surface roughly equal to that at an altitude of 35 km (22 miles) above the Earth.

Helicopter on Land

are not used to flying.

above 10,000 feet.

On Sunday, the chief pilot of Ingenuity,

Howard griped,

and his colleagues at JPL gave orders by 173 million miles through space to launch the Ingenious mission. Due to the delay in radio transmission caused by the relative positions of Earth and Mars and the satellites sending back data, the flight controllers did not know that the flight had succeeded until nearly 16 hours later, when the flight data had been returned to Earth.

NASA is concerned about the weather forecast for the flight to Mars. Sensors aboard Perseverance indicated winds of 13 to 45 miles per hour in Ingenuity’s flight area, nearly twice the maximum wind speed used in Ingenuity’s flight tests on Earth. However, computer simulations have shown that Ingenuity’s autonomous flight control systems can safely handle stronger winds, the engineers said.

They scheduled the flight for noon from Mars, when winds are expected to be lightest at Jezero Crater.

We load the commands we want to run, and then we die hours inside trying to figure out what happened, says Ingenuity’s director of operations.

Tim Canham.

Then, when all the data comes back, we frantically go online to review it and check that everything went to plan.

On Monday, Dr. Grip and his colleagues analyzed altitude and position measurements from the helicopter’s laser altimeter and sensors to confirm that Ingenuity was flying as planned.

This historic flight is the final milestone in Mars exploration this year. In February, the United Arab Emirates successfully launched its $200 million Hope spacecraft into orbit around Mars. The total cost of the flight was $8.5 million to begin a two-year weather flight. A few days later, a Chinese probe called Tianwen-1 entered orbit around Mars. China plans to land its first rover there in May or June.

The Hope and Tianwen-1 missions are the two countries’ first forays into the Red Planet. They joined spacecraft already in orbit from the European Space Agency, the United States and India. In addition to Perseverance, NASA has two other active surface missions.

The ingenuity combines high-speed rotors and lightweight carbon fiber materials with the low-cost electronics used in commercial smartphones, but 150 times more powerful than the microprocessors in computers NASA has previously used in space.

According to engineers at Ingenuity, Mars’ tenuous atmosphere, which contains carbon dioxide, poses a particular challenge. The air density on the Martian surface is equivalent to that of a normal helicopter at about 22 miles per day above the Earth. Engineers say the thin Martian air prevented the Ingenuity from generating enough lift to steer the rotor blades, and it was also difficult to dissipate the heat generated by the small engines driving the rotors.

What we couldn’t really appreciate at first was how much that density changed the way we drove the car, Grip said. It would be like being on a bike with shopping bags on the handles and swinging back and forth. In other words, if you try to check it, you won’t get a clear and straightforward answer. You get a jerky, hesitant response, which we call a flutter.

The Ingenuity designers mitigated this effect by making the Ingenuity rotor blades exceptionally stiff.

Engineers in the control room of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, celebrate after announcing the successful flight on Monday.

Photo:

NASA/Shutterstock

To survive the long journey from Earth to Mars, the technology aboard Perseverance folded up like an ironing board in a compartment beneath the rover. After a safe landing, the drone was carefully unpacked and the solar cells were charged. They are not only needed to fly, but also to power the heating elements that protect the delicate parts of the drone. NASA engineers were concerned that it would not be able to withstand the nighttime temperatures, which could drop to minus 130 degrees Fahrenheit.

The technology survived the freeze. However, an error in the autopilot’s software forced NASA to cancel the first flight attempt on the 11th. April had to abort when the spacecraft suddenly stopped during a final pre-flight check, NASA officials said.

Errors in just a few lines of Ingenuity’s 800,000-line flight code led the small drone’s onboard computer to incorrectly conclude that the software had failed and abort the flight test, authorities said. The system was working normally when the shutdown occurred.

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NASA engineers tested the software extensively before Ingenuity left Earth, but they could not detect the problem, in part because they were concerned about rotating the rotors at the maximum speed of 2,400 rpm in Earth’s denser atmosphere. We didn’t want to run the rotors at more than 75 rpm on the ground because we would destroy them because of their high density, he explained.

Robert Brown,

JPL’s director of planetary science. It’s a creeping problem.

Officially, they said that a few new teams would be enough to make up the shortfall. But even a simple software update can take days when tech support is 173 million miles away.

Once the Ingenuity completes its regular flights, the Perseverance is expected to begin a two-year search for signs of past life on Mars. The rover will store soil samples for later return to Earth as part of a series of joint NASA and European Space Agency exploration missions.

Currently, the goal is to launch a mission in 2026 to bring back monsters, Jurczyk said.

Barring unforeseen circumstances, NASA engineers will try to launch Ingenuity on its second flight in about four days, followed by another flight every three days. We will fly higher and higher, said Miss Aun. We’re going to be very adventurous.

Email Robert Lee Hotz at sciencejourn[email protected]

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