It flew! Mars helicopter takes to the air


EarthSky 20 April, 2021 - 03:10am 20 views

When will ingenuity helicopter fly on Mars?

The first helicopter is expected to attempt the first-ever flight on Mars on Sunday (April 11), with NASA unveiling the results a day later, and you can follow it all online. NASA's Mars helicopter Ingenuity flight coverage actually begins today (April 9) with a preflight press conference at 1 p.m. EDT (1700 GMT). Space.comHow to watch the Mars helicopter Ingenuity's first flight online

Did the helicopter fly on Mars?

The small, 4-pound helicopter hitched a ride to the red planet with the Perseverance rover, which touched down in an area of Mars known as Jezero Crater on Feb. 18. Weeks after landing, the rover transported Ingenuity to its "airfield," a flat 33-foot-by-33-foot patch of the Martian landscape. NBC NewsNASA helicopter set for historic first flight on Mars

The Mars helicopter – named Ingenuity – successfully flew in the thin air of Mars early in the day on Monday, April 19. A press conference is scheduled for later today. Images and links here.

As the Mars helicopter – Ingenuity – hovered above the surface of Mars on April 19, 2021, its own navigation camera captured its shadow on the Martian surface. This successful first flight was a technology demonstration for powered flight on Mars. The helicopter rode to Mars attached to the belly of the Perseverance rover, arriving on Mars on February 18, 2021. Image via NASA TV.

NASA’s Mars helicopter Ingenuity successfully flew in the thin air of Mars on April 19, 2021. The team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California broke into cheers as flight controllers announced the success of this first demonstration flight. It was the first powered, guided flight on another planet. Expected to follow are a handful of other test flights over a month-long campaign that aims to show that aerial exploration is feasible in Mars’ thin atmosphere.

You wouldn’t believe what I just saw.

More images and video to come…#MarsHelicopter

— NASA's Perseverance Mars Rover (@NASAPersevere) April 19, 2021

The team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory cheered as word arrived of the helicopter’s first flight. The text on the left-side wall reads “Dare mighty things”. Image via NASA TV.

Distant view towards the new location of the Mars helicopter (front, center) in front of the red desert landscape of Mars. Image via NASA TV.

The helicopter’s first experimental flight was originally scheduled for April 11. Before the flight could happen, NASA needed to reinstall the software to fix a problem that arose when engineers tried to switch the helicopter from pre-flight to flight mode.

Ingenuity arrived at Mars on February 18 along with the Perseverance rover, having made the long trek out to the red planet tucked inside the rover’s belly. JPL wrote in a tweet posted early in the day on April 8:

— NASA JPL (@NASAJPL) April 8, 2021

The Mars helicopter – Ingenuity – is a technology demonstration that accomplished the first powered flight on Mars. The helicopter rode to Mars attached to the belly of the Perseverance rover, arriving on Mars on February 18, 2021. Image via NASA.

Ingenuity’s flight preparation process has been slow and cautious, in part because the 4 pound (1.8 kg) helicopter made the journey to Mars in a folded configuration. It was tucked inside the rover’s body behind a protective shield. But after the rover dropped that shield and drove to the airfield, the helicopter’s personnel ordered the device to unpack and slowly unfold itself. Then, Perseverance had to set Ingenuity directly on the Martian surface and drive away, allowing the helicopter’s solar panels to begin supporting the aircraft.

Unlocking and testing Ingenuity’s blades marked the last major preparation milestones before the helicopter attempted its first flight. NASA officials tested the blades first at 50 and then at 2,400 revolutions per minute before the helicopter took off.

Due to Ingenuity’s success, future red planet missions may commonly include helicopters, which could serve as scouts for rovers and gather data on their own, NASA officials have said. Ingenuity won’t gather any data, since the small rotorcraft doesn’t carry any scientific instruments. But it will document its upcoming flights with a high-resolution camera. And Perseverance will be watching as well, from a safe distance away. There’s even a chance that the rover could record audio of Ingenuity’s flights using its two onboard microphones, NASA officials have said.

Meanwhile, as Ingenuity made its flight preparations and eventually took off on its first flight on April 19, 2021, Perseverance has been looking at its surroundings and sending back images. Among other activities, the car-sized rover has been snapping photos of its own tire tracks and its sophisticated science arm.

A magnificent new photo mosaic (below) shows NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover and Ingenuity helicopter. Community scientist Seán Doran created it by stitching together 62 photos taken by the rover. Doran posted via his Twitter account, @_TheSeaning. He said he put the constituent images through a “de-noise, repair and upscale process” prior to combining them: a process he calls “laborious.” The payoff is seen below.

Until We Meet Again@NASAPersevere

— Seán Doran (@_TheSeaning) April 7, 2021

Ingenuity also snapped its first color photograph on April 3, shortly after being lowered to the Martian dirt by the Perseverance rover. The image shows the floor of Mars’ 28-mile-wide (45 km) Jezero Crater and a portion of two wheels of NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover. Doran told

Focusing on the connection between Percy and Ginny was an obvious choice for this composition. It is very exciting to see any new photos from another planet, but this one is very special, and I expect the technology demo to be a great success.

This low-resolution view of the floor of Mars’ Jezero Crater and a portion of two wheels of NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover was captured by the agency’s Ingenuity Mars helicopter on April 3, 2021. It’s the first color photo taken by Ingenuity on the Martian surface. Image via NASA/ JPL-Caltech.

After Ingenuity’s work is done, Perseverance will begin the main objectives of its own science mission. The six-wheeled robot will hunt for signs of ancient Mars life and collect and cache dozens of samples for future return to Earth.

NASA chose Jezero Crater as the landing site for the Perseverance rover with good reason. Scientists believe the area was once flooded and home to an ancient water river delta more than 3.5 billion years ago. River channels spilled over the crater wall and created a lake, carrying clay minerals from its surroundings. Microbial life could have lived in the crater during one or more of these wet periods, and if so, signs of their remains might be found in lakebed or shoreline sediments. Scientists will study how the region formed and evolved, seek signs of past life, and collect samples of Mars rock and soil that might preserve these signs.

In this artist’s concept, NASA’s Ingenuity Mars helicopter stands on the red planet’s surface as the Perseverance rover (partly visible on the left) rolls away. Image via NASA/ JPL-Caltech.

Bottom line: The Mars helicopter Ingenuity flew for the first time on Monday, April 19, 2021, in the early morning hours. Flight coverage began at 1015 UTC (6:15 a.m. EDT; translate UTC to your time). A post-flight press conference is scheduled for 1800 UTC (2 p.m. EDT) on Monday. You can watch on NASA TV and NASA smartphone app, NASA’s website. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory – the facility that manages the helicopter’s activity – broadcast the flight live on its YouTube and Facebook channels.

Lia Rovira is a Physics graduate and Editorial Assistant of EarthSky, contributing also as a field correspondent with a long-time passion for space exploration that began early in her college career. She started her blog SkyFeed in 2018, which earned a mention in Feedspot’s “Top 50 Space Blogs to Follow," has been published in Smore Magazine, and led her to launch a communications career in tandem with her planetary passion. She currently resides in Southern California with her fiancé and small pug pup.

Read full article at EarthSky

The Wright Moment: Ingenuity Prepares for Flight | National Air and Space Museum

National Air and Space Museum 20 April, 2021 - 09:00am

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Now that the Mars 2020 mission has successfully begun its exploration of the Red Planet and the Perseverance rover has settled into its new home, NASA aims to take things to new heights—literally. Percy, a nickname for the rover that has since stuck, did not make the interplanetary journey alone, as she carried with her a tiny companion with a game-changing dream: a four pound autonomous helicopter that goes by the name Ingenuity, or Ginny (another nickname, of course).

Perseverance snapped this shot on April 5, 2021, of the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter on the Martian surface. (NASA)

Ginny arrived on the Red Planet fastened at the bottom of Perseverance on February 18, 2021, and recently tested her legs after detaching from the rover, touching the surface of Mars for the first time. Yet sticking to the surface is not the primary focus of the tiny flyer, as she has ambitions of taking flight—the first attempt of powered, controlled flight on another planet, to be specific. Although here on Earth flights are backed by the assurance of over a century of flying experience, Ginny’s task is, well, out-of-this-world. While Mars has lower gravity at about one-third that of Earth, its atmosphere is only one percent as dense, which makes the helicopter’s task of getting off the ground much more difficult than it would be here on our home turf.

Ingenuity detaching from the belly of Perseverance on the 39th Mars day (sol) of the mission. (NASA)

Whether Ingenuity can successfully lift off and land will not affect the overall mission that sent Perseverance to Jezero Crater in search of ancient life, as the takeoff was never intended to be a primary objective, but as an experiment that NASA labels as a technology demonstration. Although the outcome of Ginny’s flight attempt is independent of the rover’s science mission, it carries major implications, opening a world of possibilities and a plethora of questions: Is there a future for flying on Martian air? Will the next rover to land on Mars have the ability of flight? Can aircraft become an integral part of exploration missions? Ginny may not provide all the answers, but if she is successful in her attempt, we may be one step closer to them.

Is flight on Mars possible? The answer to that question is perhaps the one we long for above all. Ingenuity may allow to us relish in a moment none of us were likely alive to experience: the possibility of first flight. That’s the question that the Wright brothers perhaps pondered repeatedly with each new idea and every slogged attempt to create the first airplane. The striking parallels between these two first flights are undeniable. We know flight is possible and we know the extraordinary places it can take us. Yet, before the Wright brothers lifted their 1903 Flyer off the ground, there was uncertainty, as there is now with Ginny on Mars.

The Wright brothers ushered in the age-of-flight with first successful flights of a controlled flying machine with the 1903 Wright Flyer. (NASM)

When the 1903 Wright Flyer took off and Orville Wright felt the ground beneath his feet become weightless for those 12 seconds that changed the world, the possibilities of what could come next instantly became infinite. Ginny’s first attempt will also only last seconds—approximately 20 to 30 if all goes well—but for many of us, it may permit a matching experience to the moment news of controlled flight proliferated worldwide, right here on Earth. The Mars flyer is a Wright moment for a new century, and in the ultimate nod to that very first flight, Ginny carries a piece of fabric from the Wright Flyer with her— a relic from the past that will journey with her on the adventures that unfold.

The Perseverance captured this image of itself and the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter days before its maiden flight. (NASA/ JPL-Caltech/ ASU/ MSSS/ Seán Doran)

NASA has laid out a plan of how Ginny’s unprecedented attempt will unfold. Here’s the breakdown of what to expect and what comes next:

Artist's concept of Ingenuity helicopter flying on Mars. (NASA)

NASA says its photo of a 'rainbow' on Mars is actually a lens flare - sorry

Yahoo News 20 April, 2021 - 09:00am

But NASA said it's actually just the result of lens flare.

"Rainbows aren't possible here," it added.

See more stories on Insider's business page.

NASA released a photo of what looks like a rainbow on Mars - but said it actually just shows a lens flare.

"Many have asked: Is that a rainbow on Mars?" the Twitter account of NASA's Perseverance rover tweeted on Tuesday.

And it gave an answer: "No."

"Rainbows aren't possible here," it continued. "Rainbows are created by light reflected off of round water droplets, but there isn't enough water here to condense, and it's too cold for liquid water in the atmosphere."

"This arc is a lens flare."

A lens flare involves the scattering of light and is the same phenomenon that can make the sun look as if it has lines coming out of it in photos.

The Perseverance rover did its first drive on Mars in March.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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Chris Jackson/GettyHis grandfather’s funeral isn’t until Saturday, but this is shaping up to be, even by his extravagant standards of non-normalcy, a pretty extraordinary week for Prince Harry.As he sits in splendid isolation in Frogmore Cottage, Harry could be forgiven if his head is spinning.The lavishly restored period property into which he and Meghan moved just 24 months ago, and dreamed of making their home, now houses his cousin Princess Eugenie and her husband Jack and their baby. The tenants are still there, and the owner is holed up in what was once intended as Doria Ragland’s (Meghan Markle’s mom) self-contained apartment, The Daily Beast understands.Prince Harry and Prince William’s Feud Rumbles on as They Issue Dueling Statements on Philip’s Death He is literally just a few miles away from Windsor Castle, but if he has spoken to his father or the queen, no-one is saying so. And this despite the fact that, bizarrely, Her Majesty carried out an official duty Tuesday, overseeing the retirement of one of her senior aides, recorded thus by the official court circular: “The Earl Peel had an audience of The Queen today, delivered up his Wand and Insignia.” (Was Earl Peel was ordered to leave his wand on the desk on the way out?).We do know, courtesy of the Telegraph’s well-briefed correspondent Camilla Tominey, that Harry has spoken to his brother Prince William on the phone since he landed back in the U.K.This hardly seems like a great triumph in the arena of conflict resolution.We already know from Gayle King that other phone calls between Harry and his brother and father have taken place. King said they were regarded as “not productive.”If you love The Daily Beast’s royal coverage, then we hope you’ll enjoy The Royalist, a members-only series for Beast Inside. Become a member to get it in your inbox on Sunday.There is, frankly, no suggestion from royal aides that being in the same time zone has helped mend fences, no sense of joyous white smoke going up from Frogmore or 140 miles north at Anmer Hall, where William and Kate are rather pointedly spending the last days of the Easter holidays with their children, rather than waving at Harry from the garden of Frogmore Cottage like some of us might be inclined to do.Tominey touts Kate as taking on the role of fraternal peacemaker, quoting a source as saying, “Being so close to her own siblings, Pippa and James, and having witnessed first-hand the special bond between William and Harry, [Kate] has found the whole situation difficult and upsetting.”But while hopes of a major reconciliation between Harry and his family are being talked up by commentators, the reality on the ground is that expectations are at rock bottom. Emotions are strained and the wounds inflicted by Harry and Meghan’s interview with Oprah Winfrey are still raw. The media may have moved on; the family will never forget what, as they see it, was Harry’s betrayal of them. There are also the unanswered questions over the identity of the royal family member who allegedly questioned the color of the then-unborn Archie’s skin, and who allegedly stopped Meghan being able to access help when she was feeling suicidal.There has been much wishful thinking this week that the death of their grandfather will bring the brothers together. Physically, of course, it will. They will walk side by side behind Philip’s coffin, recreating the tragic cortege they formed behind their mother’s coffin in 1997.This was, coincidentally, at Philip’s urging. The brothers were said to be reluctant to walk behind their mother’s coffin at her funeral but Philip took charge telling them, “I’ll walk if you walk.” Harry said years later that he was grateful for his grandfather’s guidance.But piecing together the tatters of Harry’s relationship with the royal family will be no easy task. Many of the 29 other royals attending the funeral on Saturday will feel the same way as one friend of the family who, The Daily Beast reported, said this week: “Philip was already seriously ill when the interview screened. He was 99, so the fact that he has died is of course very sad, but hardly surprising. His death may put things into perspective, but I’m not sure it really changes anything.”The logistical constraints imposed by the pandemic are unlikely to help; if they are remotely like any other family, one imagines the brothers need to have a frank, face to face discussion at a certain level of decibels to clear the air. But having arrived back in the U.K. on Sunday afternoon, Harry is not likely to be allowed to exit quarantine until the day of the funeral. Harry’s people have made it clear he will be following Covid quarantine rules to the letter.If Harry doesn’t already feel like he has gone through the looking glass, the curious apparent rehabilitation of Prince Andrew should do it.The first sign of this development came when Andrew, who has failed to make himself available to the American authorities for questioning over his links to sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, winkled his way back on to TV screens at the weekend.He told a camera outside church that his mother was feeling a “huge void” in her life; it still hasn’t been established if his intervention was authorized. It seems hard to believe even Andrew would be stupid enough to do something like that if it wasn’t, as some briefing has suggested.Dan Wootton, the journalist who broke the news that Harry and Meghan were leaving the U.K., reported in the Daily Mail that sources had told him: “Prince Andrew might hope that this sad situation changes things, but Prince Charles is adamant there is no way back while allegations hang over him. He spoke on camera in a private capacity because this is a family event. No one can stop him doing that.”Neither the palace nor an advisory firm retained by Prince Andrew responded to inquiries from The Daily Beast on that question.Until today it looked as if Andrew was set to be allowed to wear military uniform to the funeral, the only question being whether he would be in the garb of a three-star vice admiral (his current rank, which was never removed from him when he was fired from the family as a working royal), or actually be promoted by his mother to a four star admiral, an elevation that was due to take place last year but was put on hold. The Daily Mail reported that he was lobbying hard to be awarded his overdue promotion.Harry is the only male member of the family not technically serving, so was thought to be the only male royal attending the funeral not in military uniform. There is nothing more integral to the royal family’s sense of its own legitimacy than its military associations, and Harry’s happiest days were spent in the army. Harry was forced to give up his captaincy of the Royal Marines along with all other military associations when he stepped back from life as a working royal, a defenestration that he has made clear he considers utterly unfair.According to The Sun on Wednesday, to spare Harry's blushes—and lots of embarrassing questions about Andrew—the queen has stipulated that no royals should wear military uniform at Philip’s funeral. A military source told The Sun: “It’s the most eloquent solution to the problem.” Another source confirmed that “current thinking is no uniforms.”Buckingham Palace and the Sussexes declined to comment to The Daily Beast for this article.Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.

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Q&A on Ingenuity's past and future - POLITICO

Politico 20 April, 2021 - 09:00am

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The Ingenuity helicopter’s first flight is “thrilling, exciting and terrifying” for the NASA team, a top NASA manager tells us.

— Rocket Lab readies for a second booster recovery test to prepare for long-term goal of mid-air recovery.

Astroscale is pushing the Biden administration to implement an R&D plan for orbital debris that was presented to the Trump White House.

WELCOME TO POLITICO SPACE, our must-read briefing on the policies and personalities shaping the new space age in Washington and beyond. Email us at [email protected] or [email protected] with tips, pitches and feedback, and find us on Twitter at @jacqklimas and @bryandbender. And don’t forget to check out POLITICO's astropolitics page for articles, Q&As, and more.

NO PIXIE DUST NEEDED: NASA is preparing to make history — again. When the Perseverance rover landed on Mars in February, it brought along a four-pound helicopter that will hopefully carry out the first powered flight on another planet this weekend. The aircraft, which must spin its rotors five times faster than here to soar through Mars’ thin atmosphere, is expected to lift off Sunday night for a flight to just 10-feet high lasting no longer than 90 seconds. Engineers will not find out whether the flight was successful until Monday morning due to the communications delay.

The idea actually dates back to the 1990s when the space agency sent its very first rover to Mars, Robert Hogg, who is leading the NASA Jet Propulsion Lab team that sends Perseverance its daily Martian instructions, told us this week in a Q&A. ”We landed this microwave-sized rover and it was the first time we roved on another planet,” he said. “There was discussion in various corners of JPL about what about a flying machine?”

The helicopter will be active for just a month, but the hope is that after proving the technology NASA will be able to take on more ambitious projects, including possibly exploring parts of the Red Planet not reachable with a rover or tasking an autonomous aerial drone to scout for astronauts.

“This is the next level of achievement I’m describing, being able to fly something in 1 percent of Earth’s atmosphere on the surface of another planet that’s 150 million miles away,” Hogg said. “These are mind boggling engineering achievements we’re dealing with here.”

If you’re an early bird, NASA plans to livestream the Ingenuity team analyzing the flight data starting at 3:30 a.m. on Monday. We’ll be tuning in to the post-flight briefing at 11 a.m.

CATCH AND RELEASE: Small launch company Rocket Lab announced Thursday it will make its second attempt to bring an Electron booster rocket back to Earth in May. The mission, which will launch from the company’s New Zealand complex, will send into orbit two Earth-observation satellites for Black Sky before the first stage deploys a parachute to reenter the atmosphere and land softly in the ocean.

This is the second of three planned ocean splashdown tests. Rocket Lab eventually intends to try recovering the used rocket boosters by catching them in mid-air with a helicopter. The company is also developing a Neutron rocket that will land vertically on a platform floating in the ocean, similar to SpaceX’s Falcon 9.

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There are a couple big things the Biden administration should be doing. It should commit to actually managing the space environment … and it should establish logistical infrastructure in space.

No one is in charge of space environmental management. There are lots of agencies operating in space, but no one puts it all together and manages the process. … The Biden administration should look across the board and determine who needs to be the grand organizers of space environment management.

It’s too early to say exactly who. ... If the National Space Council is continuing, that could be a place where this is debated and decided.

We’re on borrowed time as it is. ... There was a research and development plan for orbital debris that was presented at the end of the Trump administration. I say let’s implement that. We can update if we need and just get going on that.

We get a lot of collision warnings … and then we forget about it. This is an opportunity to move forward and not put our heads in the sand waiting for the next event to happen. … Everyone is in the same boat. National security space, industry, science and human spaceflight will all be affected if there are collisions in orbit. … There’s no political debate. In space, we all suffer.

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QUESTION OF THE WEEK: Congratulations to Arthur Sauzay, senior associate at Allen & Overy LLP in Paris, for being the first to correctly answer that the Transit 5B-5 is the oldest spacecraft still transmitting a signal.

This week’s question: Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first person in space 60 years ago on April 12, 1961. How tall was the military pilot?

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TODAY: A Russian Soyuz spacecraft is expected to launch to the International Space Station.

TODAY: NASA holds a pre-flight briefing on the Ingenuity helicopter’s first flight on Mars.

MONDAY: NASA will hold a post-flight briefing on the Ingenuity flight if it occurs as planned on Sunday.

TUESDAY: The Wilson Center hosts an event on the 60th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s flight to space.

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WEDNESDAY: The Washington Space Business Roundtable hosts a virtual event with Derek Tournear, director of the Space Development Agency.

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THURSDAY: Astronauts on the International Space Station hold a ceremony in which cosmonaut Sergey Ryzhikov transfers command to astronaut Shannon Walker.

THURSDAY: Lockheed Martin hosts an event on NASA’s long-term goal to bring samples from Mars back to Earth.

THURSDAY: Analysts from the Center for Security and International Studies and the Secure World Foundation will speak at an event about how to protect assets in space.

FRIDAY: Three people aboard the International Space Station — astronaut Kate Rubins and cosmonauts Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov — are expected to return to Earth.

NASA receives first weather reports from Perseverance rover on Mars at Jezero Crater

The Washington Post 20 April, 2021 - 09:00am

Perseverance, which was launched from Earth on July 30, arrived on the Red Planet in mid-February and has been exploring the Martian surface and collecting various types of data.

Among them is weather data, which scientists say will better shape what we know about radiative processes and the cycle of water in Mars’s atmosphere. There isn’t much of it, but water trapped beneath solid carbon-dioxide ice caps at the poles can be vaporized during the summertime and enter the atmosphere. Part of the plan with Perseverance is to unlock clues about what happens after.

Perseverance is in Mars’s Jezero Crater, a site NASA chose for the rover’s landing thanks to its wide expanses, free of obstacles, and the presence of a dried-up river delta from 3.5 billion years ago.

On Saturday and Sunday, the rover’s Mars Environmental Dynamics Analyzer, or MEDA, reported a high temperature of minus-7.6 degrees, and a low of minus-117.4 degrees. That rivals the coldest temperature measured on Earth — minus-128.6 degrees observed at the Vostok weather station in Antarctica on July 21, 1983.

At least the winds on Mars were comparatively tepid, gusting to only 22 mph. But imagine that wind chill …

The MEDA probes for temperature at four different levels — the surface, 2.76 feet, 4.76 feet and 98.43 feet. While barely touching the surface of the lower atmosphere, the MEDA is expected to help offer insight into Mars’s radiation budget. In other words, scientists will learn how sunlight striking the surface is transformed into heat that enters and cycles through the atmosphere.

Perseverance isn’t the first spacecraft to return weather observations from the surface of Mars. Curiosity, which landed in 2011, suffered damage to one of its wind sensors. That meant that it could measure wind speed but not wind direction. Since Perseverance can tell from which way the winds are blowing, scientists are hoping to use its observations in tandem with those of Curiosity and satellite measurements to learn about Mars’s general atmospheric circulation.

Arguably of greatest utility to scientists in the short term is the potential for Perseverance’s observations to inform mission-critical decisions, and ultimately when the famed Ingenuity helicopter will be tested. The helicopter was previously lodged in the underbelly of Perseverance, where it was stowed for the journey to Mars; on March 21, Perseverance shed the graphite debris shield that had protected Ingenuity during travel.

Ingenuity’s first flight is slated for no earlier than Sunday, a touch later than the Thursday date originally projected. Even if the helicopter is in full working order, flying on the Red Planet is no easy feat.

The atmosphere, mostly made up of carbon dioxide, is barely 1 percent of Earth’s density. Helicopters on Earth can’t take off at high elevations because the air is too thin. Imagine that factor multiplied by 50 on Mars. NASA actually tested Ingenuity in vacuum chambers at its Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.

That effect is acutely offset by Mars’s weaker gravity — about a third that of Earth. Still, working to construct a helicopter able to fly on Mars required years of engineering. Even the planet’s temperatures had to be taken into consideration; the extreme cold can “freeze and crack unprotected electrical components,” writes NASA.

And before it can roam, NASA plans to conduct test flights to make sure everything is in working order. Just deploying the helicopter to its launchpad will take 6 days 4 hours. During one of the final phases of deployment, Perseverance charged Ingenuity’s batteries before the cords were cut; then, the rover drove off, allowing sunlight to beam onto the helicopter’s solar panels to charge it.

During Ingenuity’s first test flight, its rotors will be spun at more than 2,500 revolutions per minute, and the helicopter will ascend through the thin atmosphere to just 10 feet. After hovering for up to 30 seconds, it will touch back down. NASA scientists will spend a few days gathering data and reviewing the flight’s performance before undertaking more complex endeavors in the future.

In the meantime, scientists will continue to await more detailed weather information from Perseverance and scope out an ideal airstrip for the helicopter. Ingenuity weighs only four pounds, its lightweight frame highly susceptible to even gentle winds.

Assuming an initial test flight does occur Sunday, NASA plans to host a live broadcast of the results early Monday.

The most important news stories of the day, curated by Post editors and delivered every morning.

Experts Discuss: NASA's Mars Helicopter

NASAJPL Edu 20 April, 2021 - 09:00am

NASA's Ingenuity Helicopter

News4JAX 20 April, 2021 - 09:00am

All systems are 'go': Small NASA chopper ready to fly on Mars

Click On Detroit | Local 4 | WDIV 20 April, 2021 - 09:00am

Nasa’s Mars helicopter completes first powered flight on another planet

The National 20 April, 2021 - 09:00am



Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 20 April 2021

Engineers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where the helicopter was designed and built, endured a nervous wait as telemetry from the helicopter arrived on Earth after it travelled about 289 million kilometres from Mars.

The data showed that Ingenuity had lifted off from the surface of Mars as planned, completing a task many compared to the first powered flight on Earth in 1903.

You wouldn’t believe what I just saw.

An image taken by one of the helicopter’s onboard cameras showed it hovering above the Red Planet.

The Perseverance rover, which carried Ingenuity to Mars, was positioned near the flight zone in the Jezero Crater to capture more imagery of the test flight, relaying back a short video of the helicopter in flight.

The team of engineers and scientists behind the Ingenuity celebrated as the data came in.

Lead Engineer MiMi Aung said: "We can now say that humans have flown a rotorcraft on another planet.

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

An earlier flight attempt was delayed by a software glitch, but engineers were able to solve the problem from Earth and instructed the helicopter to take off early on Monday.

The flight plan involved the helicopter climbing to three metres above the surface and hovering for 30 seconds in the thin Martian atmosphere, before landing back on the surface. In all, Ingenuity logged a total of 39.1 seconds of flight.

The Ingenuity helicopter was designed to prove that flight on Mars is possible.

While Mars has much less gravity to overcome than Earth, its atmosphere is only 1 per cent of the volume of that of the Earth, presenting a special challenge for aerodynamic lift.

To compensate, engineers equipped Ingenuity with rotor blades that are larger and spin much faster than would be needed on Earth for an aircraft of its size.

The design was successfully tested in vacuum chambers built at the Jet Propulsion Lab to simulate Martian conditions.

Ingenuity will undertake several more flights of increasing complexity and length over the next weeks, between rest periods of four to five days as it recharges its batteries.

Nasa hopes Ingenuity will pave the way for efforts to explore the planets and moons of the solar system from the "air", including Mars and Saturn’s moon, Titan.

"We will take a moment to celebrate our success and then take a cue from Orville and Wilbur regarding what to do next," said Ms Aung. "History shows they got back to work – to learn as much as they could about their new aircraft – and so will we.”

Updated: April 19, 2021 10:54 PM

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