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NASA’s Mars helicopter may fly as early as April 8

NASA plans to fly its Mars helicopter Ingenuity on the Red Planet — the primary powered plane flight on one other planet — as early as April 8, space company officers mentioned Tuesday.

But first, the helicopter should detach from the underside of the rover Perseverance in Jezero Crater, the place the robotic explorer landed Feb. 18, mission controllers mentioned at a media briefing on the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

When it flies, the helicopter will begin with quick hops to check its capabilities within the skinny Martian air, mentioned Håvard Grip, NASA’s chief pilot for Ingenuity.

“The first three flights … will be demonstrating basic capability to hover, and then you go longer distances,” Grip mentioned Tuesday.

“If everything goes really well, then we might try to stretch our capabilities beyond those basics … but we haven’t planned that in detail at this point,” he mentioned.

The solar-powered plane, which weighs simply 4 kilos, will try flights about 15 toes excessive in a flat a part of the crater’s flooring that’s about 300 toes throughout. The rover will transfer about 200 toes away from the helicopter to take photographs of it in flight, Grip mentioned.

NASA’s plan contains 5 flights over about 31 Earth days. That schedule may change, however Ingenuity is solely an experimental craft and is not designed to final for lengthy within the chilly, harsh Martian setting.

During its quick lifespan, Ingenuity will transmit pictures and information to the rover, which can beam them again to Earth.

“It takes pictures on the bottom beneath at a price of 30 pictures per second, and analyzes these to trace the options on the bottom, to see how it’s transferring, Grip mentioned.

Ingenuity’s methods could make changes a whole lot of occasions per second, to remain on its deliberate route and “to fight off disturbances, like wind,” he mentioned.

If Ingenuity is profitable, NASA may add extra helicopter flights sooner or later, mentioned Bobby Braun, director of planetary science the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

He mentioned he expects that Ingenuity will open up new mission prospects much like the best way that the tiny Sojourner rover did when it operated efficiently on Mars in 1997.

“It’s quite possible that we could have a similar evolution here, where future autonomous aerial systems could come into play,” Braun mentioned.

“What we’d like to do within NASA is to provide competitive opportunities to our community,” mentioned Lori Glaze, director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division. “We would hope that the community will … start thinking about aerial platforms as a potential way to really expand our Mars exploration.”

Future missions may use aerial drones for reconnaissance functions, taking footage to scout out areas, potential targets for future rovers, and even future astronauts on Mars, Glaze mentioned.

Over the following two weeks, Ingenuity should unfold itself, drop from Perseverance and cost its batteries.

“The most worrying day at the very least for me, goes to be that final day whereas we lastly separate the helicopter and drop ingenuity on the bottom, mentioned Farah Alibay, the space company’s Perseverance integration lead for Ingenuity.

“We actually have to drive away from it within 25 hours, because … the helicopter needs sun on its solar panels to charge its batteries, and they can only survive one Martian night without that,” she mentioned.

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Mars helicopter Ingenuity could usher in new era of exploration

Washington DC (UPI) Mar 22, 2021

NASA’s plan to fly a helicopter on Mars for the primary time in just a few weeks may begin a brand new period of interplanetary exploration just like the space company’s little Sojourner rover did within the Nineteen Nineties, in accordance with a number of consultants.
The Mars helicopter, Ingenuity, can be dropped from the Perseverance rover quickly, however NASA hasn’t decided the precise date. The rover ejected a defend that coated the helicopter over the weekend.
Ingenuity is solely an illustration like Sojourner was, however it should provi … read more

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