NASA’s persistence is preparing for the release of the Ingenuity helicopter, which will make the first controlled flights to another planet.
The rotocopter, dubbed the “Wright Brothers Moment” in memory of the first powered flight on Earth, also contains a tiny piece of fabric from that first human journey to heaven, NASA revealed at a press conference.
The ingenuity currently resides in the belly of the rover as it travels to an “airfield” on Mars that is considered the perfect take-off location – a flat area with textured features that help the helicopter follow its path.
Using Ingenuity from the gut of persistence will take about six sols, and from there the rotocopter will have to hit a series of milestones before attempting its first flight.
NASA is aiming for this event no sooner than April 8, when Ingenuity will soar nine feet in the air, hover in place for 30 seconds, and then land back on the Martian surface.
And the team says if the helicopter can make the short flight, the entire mission will be considered a success.
If the rotorcraft lands successfully and remains operational, up to four more flights can be attempted, each building on the success of the last.
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NASA’s persistence is preparing for the release of the Ingenuity helicopter, which will make the first controlled flights to another planet
The rotocopter, dubbed the “Wright Brothers Moment” in memory of the first powered flight on Earth, also contains a tiny piece of fabric from that first human journey to heaven, NASA revealed at a press conference. To be placed here on Ingenuity before starting
NASA held a briefing Tuesday to reveal details of the first flight to another planet, which the team compares to that of the Wright Brothers’ first flight on Earth.
Farah Alibay, integration manager of the Mars helicopter for the Perseverance rover, said: “Most of all I think about it [Ingenuity] As an experimental aircraft, it began with the Wright brothers who brought air mobility here to travel on Earth, just as we would hope from ingenuity on Mars. ‘
Alibay also highlighted that a piece of cloth used by the Wright brothers to build the first aircraft was attached to Ingenuity before it took off for Mars.
Bob Balaram of NASA’s Ingenuity team said in a press conference: “The Wright Brothers flew in 1803 using a spruce and cloth system.
‘We are very proud to honor this experimental aircraft from a long time ago with a little piece of cloth on Ingenuity. This fabric comes from the original airplane that flew. ‘
Perseverance is currently migrating to the first airfield on another planet, which is a 33 by 33 foot piece of Mars real estate. Once the target area is reached, the rover will release the four-pound rotary-wing aircraft from its belly.
NASA is aiming for this event no sooner than April 8, when Ingenuity will soar nine feet in the air, hover in place for 30 seconds, and then land back on the Martian surface
The rover is currently traveling to an “airfield” on Mars that the US space agency has considered to be the perfect launch site – a flat area with textured features that help the helicopter track its path.
However, NASA says the process is easier said than done.
NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter prepares for the Wright brothers’ moment
NASA is supposed to fly where nobody has flown – in the Martian atmosphere.
The vehicle, named Ingenuity, flies at an altitude similar to 100,000 feet on Earth, allowing it to collect geological data in areas the rover cannot reach.
NASA compares this mission to “the Wright Brothers’ moment” as it will be the first time in history that an aircraft has flown to another world.
It will initially take up to 60 days for the Perseverance rover to be buckled up before it is released.
If it survives the hard Martian night at -90 ° C, NASA will make the first attempt at flight within 30 days.
“Since the Wright brothers first took to the skies on December 17, 1903 in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina, maiden flights have been important milestones in the life of any air-travel vehicle,” a NASA statement said
It will take about six sols, or six days and four hours of earth time, for the two to part. The rover team is working with Ingenuity operators to move the copter from a horizontal to a vertical position before dropping it on the ground.
For the first step, the team on Earth will activate a bolt breaking device and unlock a locking mechanism that helped hold the helicopter firmly against the rover’s belly during takeoff and Mars landing.
The following sol fires a pyrotechnic cable cutter that the mechanized arm holding Ingenuity uses to rotate the helicopter from its horizontal position.
This is also the case if the rotary wing aircraft is to extend two of its four landing legs.
On the third sol, a small electric motor takes over the rotation of Ingenuity, whereupon the two landing legs snap into place on the fourth sol.
During this time, the WATSON (wide-angle topography sensor for operations and engineering) imager is taking confirmation shots from Ingenuity as it gradually unfolds into its flight configuration and transmits the data back to Earth.
The helicopter hangs in its final position about five inches above the surface and is only connected to Perseverance by a single bolt and a few dozen electrical contacts.
On the fifth mission, the team will use the last opportunity to use endurance as a power source and charge the six Ingenuity battery cells.
Bob Balaram, chief engineer for Mars Helicopter at JPL, said, “As soon as we cut the cord with perseverance and let the last five inches drop to the surface, we want our big friend to drive away as soon as possible so we can get the sun’s rays on our solar panel and start charging our batteries. ‘
A piece of cloth used by the Wright brothers to build the first aircraft was attached to Ingenuity before it took off for Mars, as NASA compares the first flight on another world to the first on Earth
It will take about six sols, or six days and four hours of earth time, for the two to part. The rover team is working with Ingenuity operators to move the copter from a horizontal to a vertical position before dropping it on the ground
However, Ingenuity must confirm three things on the sixth sol in order to fly.
These checks include that all four legs are firmly on the ground, the rover is at least 16 feet away, and both vehicles can communicate using their on-board radios.
MiMi Aung, Project Manager for Ingenuity Mars Helicopter at JPL, said: ‘Ingenuity is an experimental technical flight test – we want to see if we can fly on Mars.
“There are no scientific instruments on board and no targets to obtain scientific information.
“We are confident that any technical data we want to get on both the Martian surface and in the air can be created in this 30-sol window.”
Monday NASA shared Ingenuity’s first look at Mars. The debris shield covering the small helicopter was thrown away by Perseverance on Sunday, revealing Ingenuity tucked and stowed sideways under the vehicle
In contrast to its travel companion Perseverance, Ingenuity is not tasked with the search for life, but rather shows the ability to fly through the thin atmosphere of Mars.
It is equipped with blades four feet in diameter that rotate 40 times per second, solar panels to maintain power, and other technology tailored for the Mars mission.
And on Monday, NASA shared the first look at Ingenuity on Mars.
The debris shield covering the small helicopter was thrown away by Perseverance on Sunday, revealing Ingenuity tucked and stowed sideways under the vehicle.
It was “folded up and locked in place,” according to NASA. She said “some reverse origami” is required before it can be used on the Martian surface.
“Mars is hard,” said Aung. “Our plan is to do whatever the Red Planet throws at us, just as we have mastered every challenge over the past six years – along with tenacity and a lot of hard work and a little ingenuity.”