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ScienceAlert 20 April, 2021 - 01:03am 25 views

Did ingenuity fly on Mars?

Ingenuity, which rocketed from Earth inside the belly of the space rover Perseverance on July 30, made it to Mars in February and spent just over a week getting ready for the spotlight. Washington PostNASA again postpones historic Ingenuity helicopter flight on Mars

NASA hopes to achieve "the first powered, controlled flight on another planet" on Monday, April 19, when its Ingenuity helicopter attempts to take flight over Mars. If you want to watch the momentous flight, here's how you can follow along.

The small rotorcraft hitched a ride to Mars under the belly of the Perseverance rover, which dropped it off on the surface about a week ago. The two machines posed for a picture together. The rover will act as a witness to Ingenuity's efforts to get off the ground.

The flight attempt had been delayed from its original target date of April 11 to give NASA time to update the machine's software after a spin test of the rotors ended too early. The helicopter has since successfully completed a rapid spin test, an important milestone that put it closer to liftoff.

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The agency will livestream coverage of Ingenuity's first flight on NASA TV. If all goes well, the helicopter will attempt its flight around 12:30 a.m. PT on Monday and NASA will start its livestream at 3:15 a.m. PT. "Data from the first flight will return to Earth a few hours following the autonomous flight," the space agency said in a statement on Saturday.

This won't be like watching a sporting event with live footage, but the NASA team hopes to get results back indicating a successful hover operation. A postflight briefing is scheduled for 11 a.m. PT.

"The rover will provide support during flight operations, taking images, collecting environmental data, and hosting the base station that enables the helicopter to communicate with mission controllers on Earth," said NASA in a statement.

There's a good-luck talisman along for the ride. Ingenuity has a tiny piece of the Wright Brothers' famous Flyer attached to it, drawing a direct line between the making of aviation history on both Earth and Mars.

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Mars helicopter, Ingenuity, cleared for early-Monday takeoff

Yahoo News 20 April, 2021 - 11:00am

Two months have passed since NASA's new robotic rover successfully touched down in Jezero Crater on Mars. In that time, Perseverance has run a battery of tests to ensure it is ready for its new job, as it changed over its programming from 'spacecraft' to 'planetary geologist and astrobiologist'. It also took its first drive across the surface, and it dropped off a little friend.

Ingenuity, the Mars Helicopter, is a ground-breaking technology demonstration to test powered, controlled flight on Mars. This is something that was once thought to be impossible, due to Mars' extremely thin atmosphere.

After a few delays, the Mars helicopter is now set for its first test flight, at 3:30 a.m. ET, on Monday, April 19. The data from this flight is expected to downlink here on Earth a few hours later, and NASA is hosting a livestream (embedded below) of the mission team as they receive that data, at 6:15 a.m. ET.

Originally, Ingenuity was scheduled for its first test flight on Sunday, April 11. In the days leading up to this, however, it ran into a problem while testing its systems.

According to NASA, "During a high-speed spin test of the rotors on Friday, the command sequence controlling the test ended early due to a 'watchdog' timer expiration. This occurred as it was trying to transition the flight computer from 'Pre-Flight' to 'Flight' mode. The helicopter is safe and healthy and communicated its full telemetry set to Earth."

Based on this, the first flight was delayed until at least April 14.

In an update on April 12, NASA said that they found a way to program a solution to the problem that occurred. This required the new program to be validated and transmited to Ingenuity, and then the tiny drone would be rebooted for the new programming to take effect. Since this process was expected to take some time to complete, they delayed the date of the first test flight sometime during the week of April 19.

"In the meantime," NASA said, "while the Ingenuity team does its work, Perseverance will continue to do science with its suite of instruments and is gearing up for a test of the MOXIE technology demonstration."

MOXIE, which stands for Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment is a another instrument loaded onto Perseverance that will do something else no mission has tried yet. It will turn Martian air into pure oxygen. This will help future human missions to Mars, not only in generating breathable air for habitats and vehicles, but also to provide fuel the trip back home.

While several missions so far can be said to have 'flown' through Mars' atmosphere, everything that came before Ingenuity would be more appropriately called 'controlled falling'.

Ingenuity will attempt the first powered flight ever performed on another planet.

If all goes as planned, the little helicopter will spin up its twin rotors, generate enough lift to rise off the ground, hover there for a short time, and then land again. Eventually, the mission team hopes to have it fly several times and get it up to 5 metres off the ground.

So, why even test such a thing?

If powered flight is possible on Mars, this could open up a new facet to surface missions that we haven't explored yet. Perhaps in the future, every new rover or lander will include a helicopter companion that can quickly explore and scout around where its primary is located. Or, perhaps we fill a Pathfinder-style lander with a swarm of helicopters that can fan out and quickly explore a wide area in a short amount of time.

Mars does not have the best environment for flight. It's cold and dusty, and this combination can put off some impressive static charge. These conditions can test the electronic hardware of any robot, especially that of a small helicopter drone.

The biggest challenge that Ingenuity faces, though, is the planet's atmosphere. The atmosphere of Mars has less than one per cent of the surface pressure of Earth's atmosphere.

This has been a challenge for all missions that have landed on the planet. There's just barely enough air there for heat shields and parachutes to function properly, so every mission has needed something extra beyond those measures. For Pathfinder & Sojourner, Spirit, and Opportunity, airbags allowed the robots to bounce across the surface and eventually roll to a stop. The more massive Curiosity and Perseverance rovers required the impressive 'powered sky crane' maneuvers to touch down intact and safe.

Ingenuity is going to attempt something none of these other missions have tried, though. Now that it's safely on the surface, it's going to take off again, fly for a short while, and then land again. If, that is, the helicopter's twin rotors can generate enough lift to rise off the ground.

Now, the mission team isn't going into this blindly, of course. They've tested Ingenuity in a special chamber at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, known as the Space Simulator. In this immense sealed chamber, they recreated the cold, low-pressure atmospheric conditions that Ingenuity will encounter on Mars and then tailored the small helicopter to fly in those conditions.

The question now is, will it actually work in the real environment? Watch for more updates in the days to come.

The US space agency is ready to attempt the first powered, controlled flight on another planet.

NASA's test flight early Monday depends on a software fix to overcome a computer commanding issue.

After a few setbacks, Nasa's helicopter will finally get on its way, following its landing with Perseverance back in February.

Completing a spin test means the Ingenuity Mars copter could be a step closer to its first flight.

NASA hopes to score a 21st-century Wright Brothers moment on Monday as it attempts to send a miniature helicopter buzzing over the surface of Mars in what would be the first powered, controlled flight of an aircraft on another planet. A modest debut is likewise in store for NASA's twin-rotor, solar-powered helicopter Ingenuity. While the mere metrics may seem less than ambitious, the "air field" for the interplanetary test flight is 173 million miles from Earth, on the floor of a vast Martian basin called Jezero Crater.

Disneyland and other theme parks are reopening with pandemic safety protocols, many of which lean heavily on tech.

The Prince of Wales and the Duke of Cambridge will hold a summit to decide the future of the monarchy over the next two generations following the death of the Duke of Edinburgh. In consultation with the Queen, Britain’s next two kings will decide how many full-time working members the Royal family should have, who they should be, and what they should do. The death of Prince Philip has left the Royal family with the immediate question of how and whether to redistribute the hundreds of patronages he retained. Meanwhile the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s decision to step back from royal duties, confirmed only last month after a one-year “review period”, has necessitated a rethink of who should support the sovereign in the most high-profile roles. Royal insiders say that the two matters cannot be decided in isolation, as the issues of patronage and personnel are inextricably linked. Because any decisions made now will have repercussions for decades to come, the Prince of Wales will take a leading role in the talks. He has made it clear that the Duke of Cambridge, his own heir, should be involved at every stage because any major decisions taken by 72-year-old Prince Charles will last into Prince William’s reign. The Earl and Countess of Wessex, who were more prominent than almost any other member of the Royal family in the days leading up to the Duke’s funeral, are expected to plug the gap left by the departure of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex by taking on more high-profile engagements. However, they already carry out a significant number of royal duties – 544 between them in the last full year before Covid struck – meaning they will not be able to absorb the full workload left by the absences of the Sussexes and the Duke of York, who remains in effective retirement as a result of the Jeffrey Epstein scandal. In 2019 the Sussexes and the Duke completed 558 engagements between them. It leaves the Royal family needing to carry out a full-scale review of how their public duties are fulfilled. Not only do they have three fewer people to call on, they must also decide what to do with several hundred patronages and military titles held by the Duke of Edinburgh, the Sussexes and possibly the Duke of York, if his retirement is permanent. Royal sources said the Queen, the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Cambridge would discuss over the coming weeks and months how the monarchy should evolve. The issue has been at the top of the Queen and the Prince of Wales’s respective in-trays since the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s one-year review period of their royal future came to an end last month, but the ill health and subsequent death of Prince Philip forced them to put the matter on hold.

She is said to be the Queen’s favourite daughter-in-law, and now the monarch is set to turn to the Countess of Wessex to fill the gap left by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex in carrying out royal duties. The 56-year-old Countess was one of the most prominent members of the Royal family in the days following the Duke of Edinburgh’s death. She made the first public comments about his passing, repeatedly visited Windsor Castle and provided a photograph of the Queen and the Duke at Balmoral that Her Majesty chose to share with the world as a tribute to her late husband.

The Duke of Edinburgh's cap, gloves and whip were placed on the carriage driven to the Quadrangle of Windsor Castle to witness his funeral procession. The Duke's personal effects were placed on the seat alongside the carriage driver in a poignant tribute to his love of carriage driving. The carriage, made of aluminium and steel, was designed by the Duke eight years ago. A brass clock mounted in the front was given to him by the Queen's Royal Irish Hussars in 1978 to mark his 25 years as Colonel-in-Chief.

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The Duchess of Sussex wrote the card attached to the wreath sent by her and Prince Harry to ensure that, in a small way, she played a part in the Duke of Edinburgh's funeral service. Meghan, who is heavily pregnant with the couple's second child, had hoped to attend the ceremony but was advised against travelling by her doctor. The 39-year-old was watching the funeral on television at home in Montecito, California. The Sussexes' tribute was among nine family wreaths laid in the Quire of St George's Chapel, propped against the stalls on each side of the Duke's coffin. Buckingham Palace aides declined to provide details of the other wreaths, saying they were private. But a source close to the Sussexes confirmed that theirs had been designed and handmade by Willow Crossley, a Cotswold florist known for her natural, rustic arrangements. The variety of locally sourced flowers, some of which were picked from the designer's garden, were chosen due to their particular significance.

The deployment is aimed at showing solidarity with Ukraine and Britain's NATO allies, the newspaper reported One Type 45 destroyer armed with anti-aircraft missiles and an anti-submarine Type 23 frigate will leave the Royal Navy's carrier task group in the Mediterranean and head through the Bosphorus into the Black Sea, according to the report. RAF F-35B Lightning stealth jets and Merlin submarine-hunting helicopters will stand ready on the task group's flag ship, the carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, to support the warships in the Black Sea, the report added.

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NASA's Mars helicopter Ingenuity: What you need to know before historic first flight

CNET 20 April, 2021 - 11:00am

NASA's wheeled rovers have revealed an incredible amount about Mars. From learning about the planet's wet history, the chemistry of its soil and the puzzling presence of methane in its atmosphere, the agency's rolling robots have been indispensable in painting a picture of one of Earth's closest neighbors. But they can't cover a lot of ground -- slow movement is critical to prevent them from tumbling over a cliff or colliding with a rock. 

But imagine if they could fly. 

Strapping a set of wings to a robot on another planet would open up a whole new way to explore other worlds. "The ability to fly wherever you want, at great speed, for a closeup view without risk of damage from collision or fall, is a thrilling capability," says Alan Duffy, a professor in astrophysics at Swinburne University in Australia. 

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That's exactly what NASA has done with Ingenuity, a tiny, lightweight rotorcraft originally scheduled to take flight on Mars on April 11 but since delayed for the second time. It's now ready to fly. If it takes off, it'll be the first time humans have achieved powered, controlled flight on another planet -- a Wright brothers moment in another part of the cosmos. 

There are significant challenges to flying on Mars, however, and Ingenuity has to contend with a planet that particularly enjoys killing spacecraft. Should it succeed in getting off the ground, it will pave the way for future missions, deeper in the cosmos.

Here's why Ingenuity is so ingenious.

If you're wondering how NASA got a helicopter to Mars and feel like you haven't heard too much about it, it's probably because NASA's Perseverance rover stole all the limelight. Ingenuity is a "ride-along" mission and a tech demonstration. It isn't on Mars to perform any science. Rather, it's built to show that powered flight is possible on another world. 

Ingenuity was tucked away in the belly of Perseverance during the rover's long sojourn from Earth to Mars, which kicked off in July. The rover landed on the planet back in February, and Ingenuity was safe and sound from the harsh, cold Martian surface until April 4, when Perseverance carefully deposited the chopper onto the soil.

While on board Perseverance, Ingenuity was protected and powered by the rover's suite of instruments. But after it was dropped off, and Perseverance rolled away, Ingenuity was cold and alone -- quite literally. Mars temperatures plummet well below freezing at night, to around minus 130 degrees Fahrenheit. Fortunately, Ingenuity showed it can cope with the cold when it survived its first night separated from its rover pal.

The relationship with Perseverance hasn't ended, though. When Ingenuity takes its first flight, it will be Perseverance that relays those messages back to Earth

On April 6, Ingenuity took its first photograph of Mars, a low-resolution, orange-and-brown snapshot of the surface. It's not much, but if you want to get technical, it's the first time a vehicle capable of flight has taken a photo of the red planet's surface, so that's pretty cool. 

On April 10, NASA said it was delaying Ingenuity's first flight until "no earlier than April 14," due to a safety alert during a test the previous day of the copter's rotors. During that test, "the command sequence controlling the test ended early due to a 'watchdog' timer expiration," the space agency said in a status update. "This occurred as it was trying to transition the flight computer from 'Pre-Flight' to 'Flight' mode.'" 

NASA added that the watchdog timer "oversees the command sequence and alerts the system to any potential issues. It helps the system stay safe by not proceeding if an issue is observed."

The Ingenuity team is diagnosing the issue and will reschedule the rotor test based on its findings, the agency said, adding that the copter remains "safe and healthy." The date was revised again and the first flight is now expected no earlier than April 19.

There are a ton of challenges to achieving flight on Mars, but the major one is the air

There's a stark difference in atmosphere between the red planet and Earth. The Martian atmosphere is incredibly thin compared with our own, so achieving lift is far more difficult. Ingenuity is designed to deal with this problem. While we've already called it everything from a chopper to a flier, a helicopter to a rotorcraft, the tech it most reminds me of is a drone. 

However, its blades are much larger than those for a similar-sized craft on Earth, and they spin at around 2,400 rpm -- six times faster than on an Earth-based craft. At this speed and size, Earth-based tests have shown Ingenuity should be able to get off the ground on Mars without issue.

Unlike a drone, though, no one is piloting the vehicle in real time. The Ingenuity team had to upload instructions to the craft well in advance and will then receive data back after it's made its flight. Ingenuity is designed to be very autonomous and to keep itself healthy during the communications delay between the two planets.  

Prior to Perseverance's landing in Jezero Crater on Feb. 18, the Ingenuity team was looking for an "airfield" and surrounding "flight zone" -- a flat, mostly empty area on Mars' surface that won't jeopardize the safety of Ingenuity.

Fortunately, there was one basically next door to the landing site. "We began to realize we might have a really great airfield, right in front of our noses," said NASA's Håvard Fjær Grip, the chief pilot for Ingenuity. Grip says the team looked at "every rock and pebble" before deciding on home base for the helicopter.

Within 30 sols (about 31 Earth days), Ingenuity plans to make five flights, but the first is the most important. It will be a fairly simple flight.

The rotorcraft will take off, straight up, to an altitude of around three meters (around 10 feet) and hover in place for around 30 seconds. Then it will make a small turn, before coming down and landing again. During the flight, Ingenuity's eyes and brain will be working overtime, preprogrammed by the team to keep the craft safe. 

It will be snapping 30 images per second of the ground to understand where it is and to make any necessary trajectory changes -- around 500 times per second, according to Grip. This autonomy ensures Ingenuity won't be blown off course by a sudden Martian gust. 

A postflight briefing is expected to take place on Monday, April 19, and will be available to view here, via NASA TV.

As NASA engineers have reiterated many times: Ingenuity is a "technology demonstration," just like the very first Mars rover, Sojourner, which rolled across the planet in 1997. 

In many ways, Ingenuity has already succeeded: It survived the journey to Mars, set itself up on the planet and survived its first night alone in the cold. Its first flight will be momentous, not just for Mars exploration but for exploration of our entire solar system. 

"If Ingenuity proves that we can successfully pilot aircraft on other planets, it will hugely expand the options for exploration in the future," says Jonti Horner, a professor of astrophysics at the University of Southern Queensland. 

Flight is a powerful tool for exploration. If robots can stay in the air, they'll be able to ascend mountainous regions quickly, to investigate cracks in hillsides, to fly over lakes or lakebeds and to move quickly to avoid danger. With the right equipment, they may be able to snatch samples and bring them back to a rolling robot, too. You can even imagine a Mars rover-rotorcraft combo in the future, allowing space agencies to scout their landing location more accurately and decide on the best place to roll to the following day. 

There are other missions -- and worlds -- that will benefit from Ingenuity's demo, too. 

Dragonfly will explore Saturn's moon, Titan.

One such mission is NASA's Dragonfly, which Horner calls Ingenuity's "big sister," That mission will visit Titan, one of the most intriguing moons of Saturn. The moon is rich in organic matter, contains a nitrogen-rich atmosphere like Earth, and is home to massive methane lakes and storms. It may even contain signs of life, past or present.  

"Titan is unlike any other place in the solar system, and Dragonfly is like no other mission," says Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA's associate administrator for the science mission directorate. It's a little more ambitious than Ingenuity, with the spacecraft containing all the necessary instruments to search for signs of life and to study the Selk impact crater, which is suspected to have once held liquid water. Dragonfly is scheduled to launch in 2027 and to reach Titan by 2034.

If Ingenuity gets off the ground, the dream of otherworldly flight will become a reality -- ushering in the next era of planetary space exploration.

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