After Ingenuity's success, NASA looks to Saturn's moon for its next rotorcraft flight

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Salon 20 April, 2021 - 04:50am 29 views

When will ingenuity helicopter fly on Mars?

A camera on NASA's Perseverance rover shows helicopter Ingenuity flying above the surface of Mars on April 19, 2021. NASA announced after the flight that the area on Mars' Jezero Crater where Ingenuity flew will be known as Wright Brothers Field. CNBCImages and video show NASA's helicopter flying in 'Wright brothers moment' on Mars

Did the Mars helicopter fly?

ET on April 19—in the midafternoon local time on Mars—the helicopter successfully completed its first flight. ... NASA's Perseverance rover took a selfie on Mars with the Ingenuity helicopter on April 6. Perseverance then drove off to an overlook about 200 feet away to watch Ingenuity's flight attempt. National GeographicNASA Mars helicopter makes history as first vehicle to fly on another planet

Did ingenuity fly on Mars?

Ingenuity, NASA's first helicopter flight on another planet, flies autonomously and has special features to help it stay aloft in the thin Martian atmosphere. Transmits flight data to the Perseverance rover, which relays it via satellite to Earth. The Wall Street JournalNASA’s Mars Helicopter Ingenuity Makes Historic First Flight

What Time Is Mars helicopter flight?

The agency launched its Ingenuity helicopter into the atmosphere of Mars around 3:30 am ET, marking the first powered, controlled flight of an aircraft on another planet. NASA's experimental Mars helicopter Ingenuity lands on the surface of Mars, April 19, 2021. ABC NewsNASA's Mars helicopter makes 1st flight on another planet

"Ingenuity is the latest in a long and storied tradition of NASA projects achieving a space exploration goal once thought impossible," said acting NASA Administrator Steve Jurczyk. "We don't know exactly where Ingenuity will lead us, but today's results indicate the sky – at least on Mars – may not be the limit."

As Salon previously reported, Ingenuity was designed as an experiment to see if it is possible to fly in Mars' thin atmosphere.

The historic moment, first powered flight on another world, will be succeeded this decade by an even more elaborate powered flight on a different world. Indeed, NASA is planning to put a vastly larger rotorcraft, named Dragonfly, on Saturn's large moon Titan in 2027

Though both Dragonfly and Ingenuity are similar in the sense that they are both flying craft on other worlds, their construction couldn't be more different. From the way that they're powered to their sheer mass, comparing the two is like comparing an eagle to a gnat in terms of scale. 

In 2027, Dragonfly will launch from Earth and embark on what will be an eight-year journey to Titan, the second-largest moon in the solar system. As with Perseverance on Mars, the goal of this astrobiology mission is to advance our world's understanding of the "building blocks of life" and to look for signs of life on Titan, according to NASA.

Indeed, despite its far distance from the sun, Saturn's biggest moon has a lot of peculiar properties that make it a candidate for being habitable by life as we know it, either in the past or currently. Titan has clouds, rivers, lakes, and rain above its icy surface — though they are not made of water, but of hydrocarbons like ethane and methane. Titan is also the only moon in the solar system known to have a substantial atmosphere. Like Earth, it is mostly made up of nitrogen.

"Visiting this mysterious ocean world could revolutionize what we know about life in the universe," former NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said. "This cutting-edge mission would have been unthinkable even just a few years ago, but we're now ready for Dragonfly's amazing flight."

The entire mission will cost around $1 billion.

Dragonfly is a dual-quadcopter — also known as an "octocopter," for its eight blades that help it hover — that is designed to explore multiple locations on Titan via flight. Each rotor will be configured to tolerate the loss of at least one rotor or motor. The lithium-battery powered rotorcraft will have the ability to travel up to 22 miles per hour and climb an altitude of about 13,000 feet. Every 16 Earth days (one Titan day), the rotorcraft will hop to its next location and stay charged by using its radioactive power source — a much more reliable and compact source of power than solar panels. Unlike Ingenuity, which was four pounds and is solar-powered, Dragonfly will be approximately 990 pounds in weight and packaged inside a 12-foot diameter heat shield.

It will also be a lot easier for Titan to take flight than it was for Ingenuity. Titan has a dense atmosphere, about four times the density of Earth's, and low gravity — making it easier to fly. Ingenuity was designed to succeed in Mars' thin atmosphere; flying is a much easier task on Titan.

Dragonfly is expected to land in the dunes at the edge of a region of Titan cheekily known as Shangri-La. The rotorcraft will take samples from areas with interesting geography and then it will travel to the Selk impact crater, where there is evidence of liquid water existing previously.

Scientists believe that Titan is similar to a very early Earth. Hence it might be able to provide us with clues as to how life got its start on Earth. Specifically, scientists hope to measure the composition of solid hydrocarbon materials on Titan's surface, which could reveal how probiotic chemistry has advanced in environments that have key known ingredients for life.

Yes. Ingenuity is now the first powered-controlled flight to occur to another planet. And if Dragonfly succeeds, it will be the second rotorcraft to fly on a celestial body other than Earth. Cameras on the rotorcraft will also stream images during flight, giving people on Earth a a view of the Saturn moon. And of course, at nearly half a ton, it will set a record for the heaviest powered-controlled craft flown on another planet.

Dragonfly will be hopping around Titan for at least two and a half years.

Nicole Karlis is a staff writer at Salon. Tweet her @nicolekarlis.

Read full article at Salon

NASA's Mars helicopter Ingenuity successfully completed its historic first flight

CNN 20 April, 2021 - 09:01am

Updated 8:04 AM ET, Mon April 19, 2021

NASA flies a helicopter on Mars, the first time an aircraft has flown on another planet

The Washington Post 20 April, 2021 - 09:01am

Inside the flight operations center at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, engineers broke into applause when confirmation of the flight arrived, more than three hours after the flight, in a data burst that traveled 178 million miles from Mars to Earth.

The atmosphere in the room turned almost giddy when a still photo shot from the helicopter captured its shadow on the ground, followed by video of the aircraft’s flight, captured by the nearby Mars rover Perseverance.

“We can now say we’ve flown a rotorcraft on another planet,” MiMi Aung, NASA’s Ingenuity program manager, told the occupants of the flight control room, all masked to protect against the coronavirus. “We together flew on Mars. We together have our Wright brothers moment.”

She added that, “We don’t know from history what Orville and Wilbur [Wright] did after their first successful flight. But I imagine the two brothers hugged each other. Well, you know, I’m hugging you virtually.”

Scientists say the successful test could eventually help the space agency more quickly roam across Mars as it looks for signs of ancient life.

To make the brief flight, Ingenuity’s technology had to overcome Mars’s super-thin atmosphere — just 1 percent the density of Earth’s — which makes it more difficult for the helicopters’ blades, spinning at about 2,500 revolutions per minute, to generate lift.

It was a triumphant add-on to the main part of NASA’s latest Mars mission — the Perseverance rover, a car-sized vehicle that is set to explore a crater that once held water and could yield clues to the history of the planet and whether life ever existed there.

Ingenuity, with four spindly legs and a solar panel and costing about $80 million, made the long journey to Mars tucked in the rover’s undercarriage.

As a tribute to the Wright brothers, Ingenuity has a postage-sized bit of fabric from the brothers’ aircraft, known as the Flyer, attached to a cable under the solar panel.

If all goes according to plan, the helicopter could make as many as five flights in coming weeks, each one more ambitious than the last. The second, for example, would fly slightly higher, to 16 feet, and then horizontally for a little bit before returning to the landing site.

Aung told her to team to celebrate, to enjoy the moment, but added, “This is just a first flight. Let’s get back to work and have more flights.”

The flight was originally scheduled to occur last week. But during a test of the helicopter’s rotors there was a problem that prevented it from completing the test. Engineers at JPL were able to diagnose the problem and were confident in the fix.

But going into the flight Monday they said anything so difficult and audacious could easily run into problems.

“We’re doing everything we can to make it a success, but we also know that we may have to scrub and try again,” Aung wrote in a blog on NASA’s website before the flight. “In engineering, there is always uncertainty, but this is what makes working on advanced technology so exciting and rewarding.”

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Nasa successfully flies small helicopter on Mars

BBC News 20 April, 2021 - 09:01am

The drone, called Ingenuity, was airborne for less than a minute, but Nasa is celebrating what represents the first powered, controlled flight by an aircraft on another world.

Confirmation came via a satellite at Mars which relayed the chopper's data back to Earth.

The space agency is promising more adventurous flights in the days ahead.

The rotorcraft was carried to Mars in the belly of Nasa's Perseverance Rover, which touched down in Jezero Crater on the Red Planet in February.

Ingenuity will be commanded to fly higher and further as engineers seek to test the limits of the technology.

"We can now say that human beings have flown a rotorcraft on another planet," said a delighted MiMi Aung, project manager for Ingenuity at Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California.

"We've been talking for so long about our 'Wright Brothers moment' on Mars, and here it is."

This is a reference to Wilbur and Orville Wright who conducted the first powered, controlled aircraft flight here on Earth in 1903.

Ingenuity even carries a small swatch of fabric from one of the wings of Flyer 1, the aircraft that made that historic flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, more than 117 years ago.

There were cheers in the JPL control centre as the first photos of the flight arrived back on Earth. In the background, MiMi Aung could be heard saying: "It's real!"

To claps from her colleagues, she tore up her contingency speech - to have been used in the event that the attempt had not worked.

The demonstration saw the Mars-copter rise to about 3m, hover, swivel and then land. In all, it managed almost 40 seconds of flight, from take-off to landing.

Getting airborne on the Red Planet is not easy. The atmosphere is very thin, just 1% of the density here at Earth. This gives the blades on a rotorcraft very little to bite into to gain lift.

There's help from the lower gravity at Mars, but still - it takes a lot of work to get up off the ground.

Control was autonomous. The distance to Mars - currently just under 300 million km - means radio signals take minutes to traverse the intervening space. Flying by joystick is simply out of the question.

Ingenuity has two cameras onboard. A black-and-white camera that points down to the ground, which is used for navigation, and a high-resolution colour camera that looks out to the horizon.

A sample navigation image sent back to Earth revealed the helicopter's shadow as it came back in to land. Satellites will send back more pictures over the next day. There was only sufficient bandwidth in the first overflight to return a short snatch of video from Perseverance, which was watching and snapping away from a distance of 65m. Longer sequences from the rover's video should be available in due course.

Nasa has announced that the "airstrip" in Jezero where Perseverance dropped off Ingenuity for its demonstration will henceforth be known as the "Wright Brothers Field".

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) - the United Nations' civil aviation agency - has also presented the Nasa and the US Federal Aviation Administration with an official ICAO designator: IGY, call-sign INGENUITY.

A successful maiden outing means that a further four flights will be attempted over the coming days, each one taking the helicopter further afield.

The hope is this initial demonstration could eventually transform how we explore some distant worlds.

Drones might be used to scout ahead for future rovers, and even astronauts once they eventually get to Mars.

"It's really taking a tool that we haven't been able to use before and putting it in the box of tools that is available for all of our missions going forward at Mars. So for me, it's really exciting personally and for the community overall it opens up new doors," said Dr Thomas Zurbuchen, the head of science at Nasa.

"We will be able to explore areas that we cannot use a rover. Some of these crater walls, for example, are so exciting; scientists have been writing papers about them."

Nasa has already approved a helicopter mission to Titan, the big moon of Saturn. Dragonfly, as the mission is known, should arrive at Titan in the mid-2030s.

The Ingenuity drone completes the first powered, controlled flight by an aircraft on another world.

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NASA makes history as Mars helicopter takes its first flight | The World

ABC News (Australia) 20 April, 2021 - 09:01am

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