NASA Releases Image of Rolling Blue Dunes on Mars

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My Modern Met 13 April, 2021 - 03:06pm 26 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

Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU

Mars is known as the “Red Planet” for its rusty color—the result of the iron content in the soil. However, like Earth, the planet has polar regions and active weather patterns in its thin atmosphere. NASA has released an infrared image of the surface of Mars captured by their Mars Odyssey Orbiter. The image of rolling blue and gold dunes shows a side of the planet few see—an actively changing and varied landscape rather than simple swirling dust. It is released as part of NASA's celebrations for the 20th anniversary of Odyssey's mission to Mars.

On April 7, 2001, the Mars Odyssey spacecraft launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Still circling the Red Planet, the Odyssey orbiter is the oldest craft still working around Mars. It is equipped with an infrared camera known as the Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS). The camera captures the changing temperatures of Mars' surface, providing valuable information regarding the planet's composition and surface features.

The image of rolling blue dunes and windswept golden sands is actually a thermal image—the yellow indicates warmer temperatures, and the blue shows cooler regions. It is a composite of images captured between December 2002 to November 2004 by THEMIS. The final image shows a region 19 miles wide near the northern polar cap of Mars. The winds in this region have carved the distinct pattern visible in the dunes. These dunes cover an area the size of the state of Texas. While the dunes would not truly be “blue” to the human eye, the image is evidence of the varied landscape of Mars. It is also a testament to how far knowledge of Mars and its environs has advanced since Odyssey's launch in 2001.

THEMIS image from the Odyssey Orbiter showing a double-bowl crater on Mars' surface, caused by a meteorite splitting before impact. (Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU)

NASA's 2001 Mars Odyssey launch in Florida, April 2001. (Photo: NASA)

h/t: [Mashable, CNET]

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NASA releases image showing blue dunes on Mars polar cap

The Denver Channel 31 December, 1969 - 06:00pm

NASA has released a stunning image from Mars that appears to show blue dunes on the otherwise red planet.

Odyssey was launched on April 7, 2001 from Cape Canaveral and entered Mars’ gravity on October 24, 2001. It is still orbiting around Mars to this day, collecting scientific data.

A late Madison man's mission for Mars, a mother's love to see it through

Madison.com 15 April, 2021 - 05:15am

An artist's rendering of the Ingenuity helicopter on Mars, scheduled to lift off from the Martian surface as early as Wednesday. It will be the first aircraft to attempt controlled flight on another planet.

The past five years were filled with grief for Betty Willmore.

The Cambridge woman lost her husband of 66 years in 2016. Then, in October 2019, her son, an accomplished athlete and engineer, died unexpectedly from a medical incident while on his bike during a training ride in San Diego.

A few months later Willmore was again devastated when she was diagnosed with an aggressive, terminal form of cancer. The protocol for most would have been to enter hospice care and pray for a peaceful, pain-free end.

Jim Willmore, who helped develop the chip that controls the copter, with his mother, Betty. Neither would live to see Ingenuity's launch.

Only Willmore chose chemotherapy instead — not to somehow beat the odds but because she wanted to see an Atlas V rocket blast off for Mars with Perseverance, the much heralded rover that is now exploring the Red Planet. Her son, Jim Willmore, who was 63 when he died and a senior director of engineering at Qualcomm Technologies in San Diego, was instrumental in developing a computer chip used in the mission.

That chip is the brains and the heart of Ingenuity, a small, four-pound helicopter on which Jim’s name is inscribed along with those of others who worked on the project. The chip features a long lifespan, high computing power and low energy consumption, and it can withstand extreme temperature swings like those on Mars.

NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover took a selfie with the Ingenuity helicopter, seen here about 13 feet from the rover, on April 6.

Remarkably, Betty Willmore, who turned 89 in March, not only saw the July blastoff but the landing in February of the rover that carried Ingenuity in its belly. Sadly, Willmore died Thursday just days before Ingenuity’s scheduled maiden flight.

The flight had been set for late Sunday or early Monday, but is now delayed until at least Wednesday, NASA has announced.

“It was super important to her,” said Tracy Punsel, Betty Willmore’s daughter and Jim’s sister. “We had champagne when it took off. It was great. And when it landed it was very bittersweet because my brother’s gone and this is his legacy. There were tears of joy and tears of loss. It was really, really hard.”

This will be Ingenuity’s first attempt at powered, controlled flight on another planet. With no science instruments onboard, the sole goal of Ingenuity is to determine whether a helicopter can fly on Mars, NASA scientists have said.

A graphic showing the general activities the team behind NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter hopes to accomplish on a given test flight on the Red Planet. The helicopter will have 31 Earth days for its test flight program.

The helicopter is to run its rotors to 2,537 rpm and, if all final self-checks look good, lift off. After climbing at a rate of about 3 feet per second the helicopter will hover at 10 feet above the surface for up to 30 seconds before it descends and touches back down on the Martian surface.

Appropriately, the aircraft carries a swatch of fabric from Orville and Wilbur Wright’s airplane that recorded the first powered and controlled flight on this planet in 1903.

“Every step we have taken since this journey began six years ago has been uncharted territory in the history of aircraft,” said Bob Balaram, the helicopter’s chief engineer at the Jet Propulsion Lab, which built the aircraft.

The Willmore name is not only now on Mars but likely familiar to many in the Madison area.

Betty and her husband Harold “Jim” Willmore owned the Grandview Resort near Esther Beach on Lake Monona from 1972 until 2005. The collection of cottages, rented to vacationers in the summer and college students and teachers during the school year, was built in the 1930s. The couple’s children, Jim and Tracy helped run the resort and when they were old enough moved from their parents’ 3,000-square-foot farmhouse built in 1900 into one of the 400-square-foot cottages on the other side of the driveway.

Harold "Jim" and Betty Willmore in 2005 as they were closing their resort on Lake Monona. Jim died in 2016 and Betty last week.

When the Willmores closed the resort, it was the last of its kind on the lake. In 2005 the couple sold two lots to a developer who in 2010 sold them to the city for expansion of the park. The Willmores kept another lot for themselves so they could build a new home on the Waunona Way property.

“It’s time we did something for us,” Betty Willmore told the State Journal at the time.

“Those cottages are about my age,” her husband Harold, then 75, said. “They need more maintenance and I can supply less. We could sell the whole thing, the house and the cottages, or do it this way and save a big share of what’s left of our lives.”

Jim Willmore took up running and biking after moving to California.

Jim’s affinity for computers, technology and ultimately Mars was picked up from his father, who for 26 years owned and operated Willmore’s TV Sales & Repair Service in Madison. Harold Willmore taught electronics while stationed at Great Lakes Naval Training Station in Waukegan, Illinois, during the Korean War. Later in life he became an engineer and installed computer networks for companies in Madison and throughout southern Wisconsin.

“All of my dad’s life he was into science,” Punsel said of her father. “He was a very, very smart man.”

Jim Wilmore’s path to a Mars mission began at Malcom Shabazz High School, not La Follette High School. Tracy said her brother needed an alternative to a traditional high school setting and the experience at Shabazz “was like night and day for him.”

After high school, Willmore headed to UW-Madison where he graduated with an electrical engineering degree in 1984. He immediately went to San Diego to start working in the telecommunications industry and spent the last 21 years of his life at Qualcomm, developing computer chips for cellphones and other electronic devices.

Members of the NASA Mars helicopter team inspect the aircraft inside a space simulator vacuum chamber at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

For Ingenuity, Qualcomm used its Qualcomm Flight platform that was originally developed for consumer drone technology, something that had already been rigorously tested for commercial use. The existing technology streamlined the process of integrating Qualcomm Flight into JPL’s project and not only endured Qualcomm’s own rigorous hardware testing in its labs but also passed JPL’s simulation tests for Mars.

“Without Jim’s curiosity and enthusiasm, we wouldn’t know how much risk there was in sending all of these components to space, and NASA might only roll the dice on a project like this once,” Qualcomm wrote on its blog. “Jim’s belief in taking on projects that are interesting and inspiring to his team was instrumental in the success of this collaboration.”

It was at Qualcomm that Willmore was inspired by his colleagues to dive into biking and running. He completed 10 marathons by the age of 40, supported the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego Marathon since its inception and placed first in his age group repeatedly, according to his obituary. He later began doing triathlons, competed in the Madison Ironman and celebrated his 35th marathon by running the Mad City Marathon with Punsel.

He also ran the Boston Marathon three times, including the 100th anniversary in 1996, where he met his wife, Lori. The couple had one son, Travis, and he and his wife, Angie, brought two grandchildren into the Willmores’ lives.

“They’re such a blessing,” Punsel said. “It’s hard losing family. I lose my father, then I lose my brother unexpectedly, that was such a shock, and now Mom. She was so strong.”

Daniel van der Weide, a professor in the College of Engineering at UW-Madison, didn’t know Willmore but said his mental toughness to try new things and dive into highly competitive and grueling sporting events likely meshed well with his day job, especially with a high-profile project like Ingenuity, for which failure could be detrimental to a career and a company.

“I would like to celebrate that aspect of his life. The fact that he had that willingness coupled with rational expectations,” van der Weide said. “I mean, this is something for the history books, and you really have to have that special combination of qualities. It does not surprise me in the least that Jim was not just a desk jockey. This was just an expression of who he was.”

Willmore’s mother and sister didn’t learn of Jim’s work on the chip and his name being inscribed on the helicopter until 2018, four years after he began working on the project.

Punsel said that was typical of her brother, who rarely talked about his innovative work. Betty Willmore, in a story published in February by the UW-Madison College of Engineering, said she learned of her son’s impact on people at his funeral in 2019.

“People genuinely loved him,” Willmore said. “There were so many who told us how he had recruited them and mentored them and how inspiring he was. It was just wonderful.”

Harold "Jim" and Betty Willmore in 2005 as they were closing their resort on Lake Monona. Jim died in 2016 and Betty last week.

Five of the Grandview Resort cottages on the south shore of Lake Monona, left, at 2720 Waunona Way on the property of Jim and Betty Willmore were demolished in 2005 for their new house. Two lots were sold to a developer who later sold the properties to the city of Madison for the expansion of Esther Beach Park.

Jim Willmore, who helped develop the chip that controls the copter, with his mother, Betty. Neither would live to see Ingenuity's launch.

Jim Willmore took up running and biking after moving to California.

NASA’s Ingenuity Mars helicopter is seen here in a close-up taken by Mastcam-Z, a pair of zoomable cameras aboard the Perseverance rover. This image was taken on April 5.

Members of the NASA Mars helicopter team inspect the aircraft inside a space simulator vacuum chamber at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

A graphic showing the general activities the team behind NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter hopes to accomplish on a given test flight on the Red Planet. The helicopter will have 31 Earth days for its test flight program.

NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover took a selfie with the Ingenuity helicopter, seen here about 13 feet from the rover, on April 6.

An artist's rendering of the Ingenuity helicopter on Mars, scheduled to lift off from the Martian surface as early as Wednesday. It will be the first aircraft to attempt controlled flight on another planet.

This file photo shows a full-scale model of the Ingenuity helicopter displayed for the media at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. The 4-pound helicopter, named Ingenuity, will attempt to rise 10 feet into the extremely thin Martian air on its first hop, scheduled for Sunday. Five increasingly higher and longer flights are planned over the course of a month.

A rocket lifts off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on July 30 in Cape Canaveral, Florida, sending the latest Mars rover to the Red Planet in search of signs of life. The rover also carried a small helicopter which has since been deployed and is awaiting its first flight on Mars.

This March 21 photo made available by NASA shows the released debris shield, center, for the Ingenuity helicopter, dropped on the surface of Mars from the bottom of the Perseverance rover.

NASA's Ingenuity helicopter can be seen here with all four of its legs deployed before dropping onto the surface of Mars from the belly of the Perseverance rover on March 30th. ,

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An artist's rendering of the Ingenuity helicopter on Mars, scheduled to lift off from the Martian surface as early as Wednesday. It will be the first aircraft to attempt controlled flight on another planet.

Jim Willmore, who helped develop the chip that controls the copter, with his mother, Betty. Neither would live to see Ingenuity's launch.

A graphic showing the general activities the team behind NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter hopes to accomplish on a given test flight on the Red Planet. The helicopter will have 31 Earth days for its test flight program.

Members of the NASA Mars helicopter team inspect the aircraft inside a space simulator vacuum chamber at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

Harold "Jim" and Betty Willmore in 2005 as they were closing their resort on Lake Monona. Jim died in 2016 and Betty last week.

NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover took a selfie with the Ingenuity helicopter, seen here about 13 feet from the rover, on April 6.

Jim Willmore took up running and biking after moving to California.

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NASA releases spectacular image of blue dunes on Mars to mark 20 years of Odyssey

India Today 15 April, 2021 - 05:00am

According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), these dunes cover an area as big as the American state of Texas.

Titled 'Blue Dunes of Red Planet', the image combines shots captured between December 2002 and November 2004. These shots were captured by the Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS) instrument on the Odyssey orbiter which has sent back more than 1 million images since it began circling Mars.

In the image, one can see two types of dunes. The first set which is somewhat yellow and orange in colour signifies warmer climates while the pale bale set shows colder climates on Mars.

The dark, sun-warmed dunes glow with a golden colour, NASA said in a press release adding that the image covers an area almost 30 kilometres wide.

According to the space agency, the pictured location on Mars is 80.3 degrees north latitude, 172.1 degrees east longitude.

Launched on April 7, 2001, NASA's Mars Odyssey was sent to the Red Planet to map its composition. Over the last two decades, the Mars Odyssey has uncovered troves of water ice, which paved the way for safer landings.

Project Scientist Jeffrey Plaut says, "Before Odyssey, we didn't know where this water was stored on the plane."

Plaut heads NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, which leads the Mars Odyssey mission.

Scientists have been able to use Odyssey data to determine what physical materials exist on Mars. In fact, this steady stream of data has even enabled NASA to map craters on the Red Planet.

Copyright © 2021 Living Media India Limited. For reprint rights: Syndications Today

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Nasa has released a stunning image from Mars showing an area covered by a sea of “blue” sand dunes.

The picture shows the sand dunes covering the planet’s northern polar cap, where temperatures can reach as low as -150C (-238F).

Nasa says the sand dunes actually cover an area the size of Texas, the second largest US state, which has an area of about 695,662 km².

The image, released for the first time on Thursday, covers an area roughly 19 miles wide.

It was composed of several images taken from December 2002 to November 2004 by Nasa’s Mars Odyssey orbiter, which was responsible for the stunning photo.

The photo is a false colour image, meaning that the colours are representative of different temperatures. Blue tints represents areas of cold, while shades of yellow and orange mark out “sun-warmed dunes”, the space agency says.

It was taken by a Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS) on the Odyssey, which Nasa says is able to view “infrared reflections from the Martian surface”.

Nasa said the sand dunes image “is part of a special set of images marking the 20th anniversary of Odyssey, the longest-working Mars spacecraft in history”.

The robotic spacecraft was sent into orbit in April 2001, and has been taking images of the Martian service ever since.

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Mars helicopter flight delayed

CBS 17 15 April, 2021 - 04:45am

NASA: Sun Stripping Away Martian Atmosphere

AP Archive 15 April, 2021 - 04:45am

Ingenuity Mars to Make First Flight

WTKR News 3 15 April, 2021 - 04:45am

NASA helicopter gearing up for historic flight

ABC15 Arizona 15 April, 2021 - 04:45am

$85m Mars helicopter to take its first flight, testing the laws of physics in 'near impossible' mission

Telegraph.co.uk 15 April, 2021 - 04:31am

In an extraordinary scientific leap, the $85m Ingenuity helicopter will try to take off and reach an altitude of 10ft in the perilously thin atmosphere of the Red Planet.

"The laws of physics may say it's near impossible to fly on Mars, but actually flying a heavier-than-air vehicle on the red planet is much harder than that," Nasa said. 

Ingenuity's trip was set for Sunday but is now on hold until at least April 14, after a possible technical issue emerged while testing its rotors.

As it prepared for the flight Perseverance, the Nasa rover which delivered Ingenuity to Mars, took a stunning "selfie".

The image showed Perseverance on the surface and Ingenuity sitting in the background.

Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of Nasa, compared what was about to happen to the Wright brothers' first flight on Earth in 1903.

He said: "We're ready on the surface of Mars. The [selfie] image shows that we're ready for another historic moment, the likes of which I believe has analogues in 1903.

"Controlled flight on a different planet. It's an amazing feat we're about to attempt."

He added: "Just as Ingenuity was inspired by the Wright brothers, future explorers will take off using both the data and inspiration from this mission."

Further images from Perseverance showed the blades of Ingenuity spinning at 50rpm in a test ahead of its maiden flight.

Tim Canham, Ingenuity operations lead, said: "We spun the blades very slowly and carefully. The helicopter is good, it's looking healthy."

Ingenuity weighs 4lb and is made of light carbon fibre.

It arrived on Mars attached to the belly of Perseverance in a dramatic landing in the Jezero Crater on Feb 18. That followed an eight-month journey of nearly 300 million miles.

Once on the surface the rover dropped off the helicopter and drove off to a safe distance of about 200ft.

In images it sent back Perseverance's tyre tracks could be seen in the Martian dust behind it.

When Ingenuity lifts off, Perseverance's cameras will be trained on it.

Video will be beamed back to mission control at Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, although the data will take some time to assimilate.

The flight plan is to rise vertically for about six seconds to 10ft, then hover for about 30 seconds and rotate, before taking a picture of Perseverance, and then slowly descending.

It will be an autonomous flight and Nasa will not be able to control the helicopter remotely.

The flight details have been pre-programmed into Ingenuity as it takes more than 10 minutes for signals to travel from Earth to Mars.

The helicopter has a solar panel on top for regenerating batteries.

Below are two rotating propellers, which are 4ft long tip to tip.

Because the Martian atmosphere is only one per cent of Earth's the blades will have to spin extremely fast, at 2,537rpm, to get lift.

The machine will also have to withstand harsh temperatures, which can reach -90C.

Below the blades there is a shiny box containing the battery and the helicopter's  "brain" which communicates with Perseverance.

Taryn Bailey, a Nasa engineer at JPL, said: "The big question is can we really fly a helicopter in the thin Martian atmosphere?

"If we can successfully prove we can fly in a completely different atmosphere that will usher in a new wave of technology. Pretty much the sky's the limit."

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