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

Science

CNET 13 April, 2021 - 11:52am 14 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

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 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 (NASA will set a new date next week). If it flies, 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."

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 no earlier than Wednesday, April 14, and will be available to view on 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.

Read full article at CNET

NASA's helicopter Ingenuity set for first test flight this weekend

WOGX 15 April, 2021 - 10:45am

The Mars helicopter named Ingenuity is an assistant to the Mars rover Perseverance. It will attempt its first flight this Sunday on the Red Planet. NASA says it will report the results the day after because of a bit of a time difference.

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NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter prepares to attempt first controlled flight on Mars

PBS NewsHour 15 April, 2021 - 10:15am

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An experimental helicopter that accompanied Perseverance, NASA’s latest Mars rover, on its recent journey to our celestial neighbor will soon attempt an ambitious goal: the first powered, controlled flight on another planet.

This small, lightweight aircraft, dubbed Ingenuity, detached from its storage spot on Perseverance’s belly on April 3 to start preparing for its mission. Ingenuity will have the chance to conduct up to five flights over 31 days — the equivalent of 30 Martian days, also called “sols.”

NASA delayed Ingenuity’s first test flight — which was originally scheduled for April 11 — in light of an error that occurred during a test of the helicopter’s operations on April 9. The agency said that Ingenuity is “safe and healthy,” and that the experiment would now happen “no earlier than April 14.” Technological glitches like this one, in addition to poor flying weather on Mars like gusty winds, are both potential obstacles that researchers must take into account when determining the exact time and date Ingenuity will finally attempt its historic flight.

#MarsHelicopter 1st flight attempt delayed to no earlier than April 14

During the high-speed spin test, the sequence ended early during the transition from "preflight" to "flight" mode. The helicopter is safe & healthy. The team is diagnosing the issue. https://t.co/ysnZzKR7qM pic.twitter.com/lP3NrIvGBs

— NASA JPL (@NASAJPL) April 10, 2021

For that first flight, Ingenuity will aim to hover about 3 meters — or around 10 feet — above the Martian surface, then rotate to face nearby Perseverance and snap a photo using an onboard camera before landing, said Tim Canham, who serves as Ingenuity’s operations lead at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, during a press conference Friday. The whole process is expected to last around 30 seconds.

Taking flight on Mars is no simple feat. The planet’s gravity is about a third of what we experience on Earth, and temperatures there fluctuate dramatically — a good portion of the helicopter’s solar-powered energy goes toward keeping it warm enough to survive extremely cold nights.

The atmospheric pressure on Mars is also about one-hundredth of that at sea level on Earth. “To put it in perspective, it would be like flying at [around] 100,000 feet on Earth,” Josh Ravich, Ingenuity’s mechanical engineering lead, said. “At that low pressure, it’s very hard to generate lift.”

Håvard Grip, Ingenuity’s chief pilot, told the PBS NewsHour via email that the Red Planet essentially has “a lot less air” for an aircraft “to bite into and push against” in order to take flight.

Ingenuity is so far on track to attempt its flight on April 11 at about 8:00 p.m. Pacific time. The data it collects will then be transmitted to Perseverance. The rover will send that information back to NASA researchers, who expect to receive it around midnight, or early Monday morning.

Much like the Perseverance rover, which was outfitted with an aluminum plate dedicated to healthcare workers who have worked to save lives during the coronavirus pandemic, Ingenuity features an easter egg of its own: a tiny piece from the original Wright Brothers’ Flyer — which flew over a century ago — that’s tucked underneath the helicopter’s solar array as an ode to the first time humans ever pulled off controlled flight here on Earth.

This image, taken December 17, 1903, captured the first successful controlled flight of the Wright Brothers’ flyer. A small piece of material from one of the flyer’s wings is attached underneath Ingenuity’s solar array. If successful, the helicopter will mark another technological first: the inaugural controlled flight of an aircraft on another planet. Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

“That little piece of material is potentially going to be the only piece of material to ever be involved in the first flight on two different planets,” Ravich said.

MiMi Aung, Ingenuity’s project manager, noted during Friday’s press conference that the helicopter’s first flight could have one of four outcomes: full success, partial success, failure, or a return of no or insufficient data. If the data doesn’t come back as expected, researchers on the project would have to take time to figure out what went wrong, and how to move forward.

If all goes according to plan, over the next few weeks, Ingenuity will perform up to four more flights that get progressively more complex — and could include feats like flying higher, farther and longer — in order to further test the helicopter’s capabilities.

Two bots, one selfie. Greetings from Jezero Crater, where I’ve taken my first selfie of the mission. I’m also watching the #MarsHelicopter Ingenuity as it gets ready for its first flight in a few days. Daring mighty things indeed.

Images: https://t.co/owLX2LaK52 pic.twitter.com/rTxDNK69rs

— NASA's Perseverance Mars Rover (@NASAPersevere) April 7, 2021

Regardless of how this experiment plays out, Ingenuity has already pulled off a series of impressive accomplishments after surviving its initial trip to Mars alongside Perseverance and managing to function on its own in the unforgiving Martian environment.

All of the information that’s collected during the helicopter’s first attempted flight — like how well its blades, visual navigation and solar array perform, or how much lift it is or is not able to generate — will be used to inform later missions.

If the helicopter is successful, similar aircraft could one day be used to carry out a range of useful tasks, like carrying payloads across Mars, investigating hard-to-reach places that existing technologies can’t readily access and supporting future robotic or human exploration on the planet, Ravich said.

By Isabella Isaacs-Thomas

By Isabella Isaacs-Thomas

By Associated Press

Isabella Isaacs-Thomas is a news assistant at the PBS NewsHour.

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Mars Helicopter Ready for First Flight on Sunday – UPDATE

SpacePolicyOnline.com 15 April, 2021 - 10:15am

NASA continues to plan for the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter to make its first flight on Sunday, though the date still could change. All the tests conducted so far indicate everything is ready for the technology demonstration to begin, but there is one more test tonight and winds on Mars could also trigger a delay. [UPDATE, April 10: the first flight has been postponed to no earlier than April 14 due to a problem during a test Friday night.]

The tiny 4-pound (1.8 kilogram) helicopter will be the first vehicle to make a powered flight on another world.  NASA likens it to the Wright Brothers’ airplane flight at Kitty Hawk, NC in 1903 and a piece of fabric from their Wright Flyer is attached to Ingenuity.

The $80 million helicopter arrived at Mars in the “belly” of the Mars Perseverance rover. Over the past week, the helicopter was lowered from Perseverance to the Martian surface and physically separated from it. Now it must rely on its own systems for survival.

A selfie of Perseverance and Ingenuity compiled from 62 images taken by a camera on Perseverance’s robotic arm shows the two about 13 feet (3.9 meters) apart after Perseverance backed away so Ingenuity’s solar panels could recharge its batteries. The robotic arm with its WATSON camera is not visible in the image since it was taking the pictures. The large camera sticking out from the top is MASTCAM-Z.  Perseverance has 23 cameras.

MiMi Aung, Ingenuity’s project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, CA, explained at a press conference today that Ingenuity already passed a number of tests since deployment from Perseverance, including spinning its 4-foot (1.2 meter) long blades at 50 revolutions per minute (rpm). Tonight they will run a test at full speed, about 2,500 rpm.

If all goes well and the winds are acceptable, Ingenuity will lift off Sunday at 12:30 pm local time on Mars, which is 8:00 pm Pacific Daylight Time (11:00 pm Eastern). The time was chosen because of expected wind conditions at the site. The goal for this first test is to reach an altitude of 10 feet (3 meters), turn, and land. The entire flight will take just 40 seconds.

Cameras on Ingenuity and Perseverance will capture images of the flight, but NASA is especially interested in the engineering data that tells the tale of exactly what took place. The data must flow from Ingenuity to Perseverance to NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter orbiting Mars and back to JPL. They expect the first data and perhaps some black and white images to arrive about 12:30 am Monday PDT (3:30 am Eastern). Color images from Ingenuity will have to wait a day while the helicopter recharges itself.  Color video will be taken by MASTCAM-Z, but will take some time to transmit back to Earth.

Assuming the flight is on Sunday, NASA will hold a press briefing on Monday morning at 11:00 am EDT to share whatever results they have by then. As more images arrive, NASA will post them as soon as possible at http://go.nasa.gov/perseverance-raw-images.

Aung and NASA Science Mission Directorate head Thomas Zurbuchen emphasized again and again today that this is a technology demonstration mission. No one has attempted powered flight on another world before.  Mars is very different than Earth, with an atmospheric density just 1 percent that of Earth at the surface and one-third Earth’s gravity.

Many tests were performed on Earth that make Aung confident Ingenuity can fly in the Martian environment, but there no sure bets. There are four possible outcomes: full success, partial success, insufficient or no data, or failure. “Regardless we will we learn.”

If the flight goes well, additional tests to higher altitudes and further distances are in store, but Ingenuity’s team has only 30 days to put the helicopter through its paces. Perseverance is a science mission, seeking signs of past microbial life on Mars. No matter what happens, Aung will “turn back the key” to the Perseverance team when the month is over.

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(undock Apr 16 9:34 pm ET, land Apr 17 12:56 am ET)

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NASA’s Mars Helicopter to Make First Flight Attempt

Jet Propulsion Laboratory 15 April, 2021 - 08:52am

Read here for more information.

NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter is two days away from making humanity’s first attempt at powered, controlled flight of an aircraft on another planet. If all proceeds as planned, the 4-pound (1.8-kg) rotorcraft is expected to take off from Mars’ Jezero Crater Sunday, April 11, at 12:30 p.m. local Mars solar time (10:54 p.m. EDT, 7:54 p.m. PDT), hovering 10 feet (3 meters) above the surface for up to 30 seconds. Mission control specialists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California expect to receive the first data from the first flight attempt the following morning at around 4:15 a.m. EDT (1:15 a.m. PDT). NASA TV will air live coverage of the team as they receive the data, with commentary beginning at 3:30 a.m. EDT (12:30 a.m. PDT).

Flying in a controlled manner on Mars is far more difficult than flying on Earth. Even though gravity on Mars is about one-third that of Earth’s, the helicopter must fly with the assistance of an atmosphere whose pressure at the surface is only 1% that of Earth. If successful, engineers will gain invaluable in-flight data at Mars for comparison to the modeling, simulations, and tests performed back here on Earth. NASA also will gain its first hands-on experience operating a rotorcraft remotely at Mars. These datasets will be invaluable for potential future Mars missions that could enlist next-generation helicopters to add an aerial dimension to their explorations.

“From day one of this project our team has had to overcome a wide array of seemingly insurmountable technical challenges,” said MiMi Aung, Ingenuity project manager at JPL. “And here we are – safely on Mars – on the eve of our first flight attempt. We got this far with a never-say-die attitude, a lot of friends from many different technical disciplines, and an agency that likes to turn far-out ideas into reality.”

“Mars is hard not only when you land, but when you try to take off from it and fly around, too.”

Sunday’s flight will be autonomous, with Ingenuity’s guidance, navigation, and control systems doing the piloting. That’s mostly because radio signals will take 15 minutes, 27 seconds to bridge the 173-million-mile (278-million-kilometer) gap between Mars and Earth. It’s also because just about everything about the Red Planet is demanding.

“Mars is hard not only when you land, but when you try to take off from it and fly around, too,” said Aung. “It has significantly less gravity, but less than 1% the pressure of our atmosphere at its surface. Put those things together, and you have a vehicle that demands every input be right.”

Events leading up to the first flight test begin when the Perseverance rover, which serves as a communications base station for Ingenuity, receives that day’s instructions from Earth. Those commands will have traveled from mission controllers at JPL through NASA’s Deep Space Network to a receiving antenna aboard Perseverance. Parked at “Van Zyl Overlook,” some 215 feet (65 meters) away, the rover will transmit the commands to the helicopter about an hour later.

Then, at 10:53 p.m. EDT (7:53 p.m. PDT), Ingenuity will begin undergoing its myriad preflight checks. The helicopter will repeat the blade-wiggle test it performed three sols prior. If the algorithms running the guidance, navigation, and control systems deem the test results acceptable, they will turn on the inertial measurement unit (an electronic device that measures a vehicle’s orientation and rotation) and inclinometer (which measures slopes). If everything checks out, the helicopter will again adjust the pitch of its rotor blades, configuring them so they don’t produce lift during the early portion of the spin-up.

The spin-up of the rotor blades will take about 12 seconds to go from 0 to 2,537 rpm, the optimal speed for the first flight. After a final systems check, the pitch of the rotor blades will be commanded to change yet again – this time so they can dig into those few molecules of carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and argon available in the atmosphere near the Martian surface. Moments later, the first experimental flight test on another planet will begin.

“It should take us about six seconds to climb to our maximum height for this first flight,” said JPL’s Håvard Grip, the flight control lead for Ingenuity. “When we hit 10 feet, Ingenuity will go into a hover that should last – if all goes well – for about 30 seconds.”

While hovering, the helicopter’s navigation camera and laser altimeter will feed information into the navigation computer to ensure Ingenuity remains not only level, but in the middle of its 33-by-33-foot (10-by-10-meter) airfield – a patch of Martian real estate chosen for its flatness and lack of obstructions. Then, the Mars Helicopter will descend and touch back down on the surface of Jezero Crater, sending data back to Earth, via Perseverance, to confirm the flight.

Perseverance is expected to obtain imagery of the flight using its Navcam and Mastcam-Z imagers, with the pictures expected to come down that evening (early morning Monday, April 12, in Southern California). The helicopter will also document the flight from its perspective, with a color image and several lower-resolution black-and-white navigation pictures possibly being available by the next morning.

“The Wright brothers only had a handful of eyewitnesses to their first flight, but the historic moment was thankfully captured in a great photograph,” said Michael Watkins, director of JPL. “Now 117 years later, we are able to provide a wonderful opportunity to share the results of the first attempt at powered, controlled flight on another world via our robotic photographers on Mars.”

The Ingenuity Mars Helicopter was built by JPL, which also manages this technology demonstration project for NASA Headquarters in Washington. It is supported by NASA’s Science, Aeronautics, and Space Technology mission directorates. NASA’s Ames Research Center in California's Silicon Valley and NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, provided significant flight performance analysis and technical assistance.

At NASA Headquarters, Dave Lavery is the program executive for the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter. At JPL, MiMi Aung is the project manager and J. (Bob) Balaram is chief engineer.

JPL, which is managed for NASA by Caltech in Pasadena, California, built and manages operations of the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter.

A key objective for Perseverance’s mission on Mars is astrobiology, including the search for signs of ancient microbial life. The rover will characterize the planet’s geology and past climate, pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet, and be the first mission to collect and cache Martian rock and regolith (broken rock and dust).

Subsequent NASA missions, in cooperation with ESA (European Space Agency), would send spacecraft to Mars to collect these sealed samples from the surface and return them to Earth for in-depth analysis.

JPL built and manages operations of the Perseverance rover.

Mars .

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Noachis Terra Crater - False Color

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Australe Mensa - False Color

Angustus Labyrinthus - False Color

Ingenuity Begins to Spin Its Blades

NASA Mars helicopter Ingenuity: How to watch first flight unfold live

CNET 12 April, 2021 - 10:34pm

Let's take a moment to marvel at the phrase "the first powered, controlled flight on another planet." NASA hopes to achieve that momentous milestone very soon with the Ingenuity helicopter on Mars.

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.

From the lab to your inbox. Get the latest science stories from CNET every week.

The Ingenuity attempt had been targeted for Sunday, but NASA said Saturday it had been "delayed to no earlier than April 14." A further update from NASA suggests a new date will be set the week beginning April 19

"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," NASA said. "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 and worked as planned."

The space agency said the Ingenuity team is diagnosing the issue and will reschedule the rotor test based on its findings. Ingenuity is "is safe and healthy," NASA said.

The agency will livestream coverage of the confirmation of Ingenuity's first flight on NASA TV.

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. 

"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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Nasa preparing to attempt first controlled flight on another world

The Guardian 10 April, 2021 - 04:12pm

The helicopter is expected to take to the skies next week, with Wednesday being the earliest time scheduled.

Ingenuity arrived at the Jezero Crater on the red planet on 18 February after an eight-month journey spanning nearly 300 million miles inside the Perseverance rover.

Take-off had been scheduled for Monday, but Nasa said this was delayed after a technical issue during a rotor test, which means another test is now needed prior to the launch.

The helicopter is 50cm tall and weighs 1.8kg on Earth, but, due to the red planet’s lower gravity, a mere 680g on Mars, according to Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. It is armed with two rotors that spin in opposite directions to lift the drone off the ground.

“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,” Nasa said.

“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.

After the spacecraft landed, it dropped the drone on to the ground so the aircraft could prepare for its maiden flight. It is part of a technology demonstration: a project that aims to test a new capability for the first time. As such, it does not have any scientific instruments onboard.

According to Nasa, one of Ingenuity’s key objectives is to survive the “bone-chilling temperatures” of the planet with “nights as cold as minus 90C”. It also faces the challenge of flying in Mars’s thin atmosphere, which Nasa notes is less than 1% the density of Earth’s.

For its first flight, the helicopter will take off from the ground and hover in the air at about 3 metres for 20 to 30 seconds before descending and touching back down on the Martian surface.

If successful, Nasa says it will be a “major milestone” – the very first powered flight in another world.

The aircraft will then attempt additional experimental flights, which will involve travelling further distances and increasing altitudes.

It is designed to be mostly autonomous so Nasa will not be able to control the helicopter remotely due to the distance between Earth and Mars. It takes more than 11 minutes to get a radio signal back to Earth.

Last month the Perseverance rover sent back the first ever sounds of driving on the red planet – a grinding, clanking and banging noise.

This article was amended on 12 April 2021 to give Nasa’s comparative figure for Mars’s and Earth’s atmospheric densities, clarifying an earlier line that spoke of Mars’s atmosphere as 100 times thinner than Earth’s.

Nasa gets ready to fly helicopter on Mars for first time

Yahoo News UK 10 April, 2021 - 03:43pm

The Ingenuity helicopter is expected to take to the Martian skies in the coming days – with Wednesday being the earliest time for take-off.

The small helicopter is part of a technology demonstration – a project that aims to test a new capability for the first time.

Take-off had been scheduled for Monday, but Nasa has said this was delayed to Wednesday at the earliest following a technical issue during a rotor test, which means another test is now needed prior to the launch.

“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.

“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 and worked as planned.”

Ingenuity arrived at the Jezero Crater on February 18 after an eight-month journey spanning nearly 300 million miles, tucked inside the belly of Nasa’s Perseverance rover.

After the spacecraft landed, it dropped the drone onto the ground so Ingenuity could prepare for its maiden flight.

About 50cm tall, the helicopter weighs 1.8kg on Earth, but is a mere 0.68kg on Mars because of the red planet’s lower gravity.

It is armed with two rotors that spin in opposite directions to lift the drone off the ground.

Ingenuity also faces the challenge of flying in the Martian atmosphere, which is about 100 times thinner than Earth’s.

As it is a technology demonstration, the helicopter does not have any scientific instruments onboard.

According to Nasa, one of Ingenuity’s key objectives is to survive the “bone-chilling temperatures” of the red planet, with “nights as cold as minus 90C”.

MiMi Aung, Ingenuity’s project manager at Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), said: “The Ingenuity team has done everything to test the helicopter on Earth, and we are looking forward to flying our experiment in the real environment at Mars.

“We’ll be learning all along the way, and it will be the ultimate reward for our team to be able to add another dimension to the way we explore other worlds in the future.”

For its first flight, the helicopter will take off from the ground and hover in the air at around 10 feet (three metres) for about 20 to 30 seconds before descending and touching back down on the Martian surface.

If successful, Nasa says it will be a “major milestone” – the very first powered flight in another world.

After that, the aircraft will attempt additional experimental flights which will involve travelling further distances and increasing altitudes.

Ingenuity will aim for up to five test flights within a 30 Martian-day (31 Earth-day) demonstration window.

This is because of the distance between Earth and Mars – it takes more than 11 minutes to get a radio signal back to Earth

Nasa said it will not be able to look at engineering data or images from each flight until well after the flight takes place.

Bob Balaram, Mars Helicopter chief engineer at JPL, said: “Every step we have taken since this journey began six years ago has been uncharted territory in the history of aircraft.

“And while getting deployed to the surface will be a big challenge, surviving that first night on Mars alone, without the rover protecting it and keeping it powered, will be an even bigger one.”

A Roman “Brideshead” has been unearthed at a planned Scarborough housing estate, and archaeologists believe it may be the first and only one of its kind. The building complex dating from the period of Roman rule, between 43 AD and 410 AD, consists of a circular room with adjoining chambers built to a design “never seen before in Britain”. Archaeologists believe the complex which functioned like a “gentlemen's club” for the wealthy elite could also be the first of its kind to be discovered within the entire former Roman Empire. The site in North Yorkshire was assessed by Historic England after it became clear ruins discovered on the Keepmoat Homes housing development were more significant than first thought. Keith Emerick, inspector of ancient monuments at Historic England, told The Daily Telegraph: “It could be a bit like Brideshead Revisited, like a modern stately home with the equivalent of a chapel attached." The Flyte family own a chapel within their property at Brideshead in Evelyn Waugh's novel. “We’re working to ascertain a potentially religious function of the building," Mr Emerick added.

The Royal Family has released new photographs of the Duke of Edinburgh following his death at the age of 99. The previously unseen photo shows Prince Louis cradled in the arms of the Queen, a rare image of the monarch holding one of her 10 great-grandchildren. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's other children Prince George and Princess Charlotte are on either side of the monarch.

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Mixing vaccines could improve protection against coronavirus, a senior government scientific adviser has said. Prof Anthony Harnden, deputy chairman of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, said different vaccine types could coalesce to boost the immune system and provide a longer-lasting response. He also said a "mix and match" approach could make future rollouts more flexible. It comes after planners were forced to rethink phase 2 of the rollout, which started on Tuesday, after the JCVI recommended people aged 18 to 29 have an alternative to the AstraZeneca jab due to blood clotting concerns. Currently only two other vaccines - Pfizer and Moderna - have received regulatory approval in the UK. The promise of 30 million one-jab Johnson & Johnson doses in the summer suffered a setback this week after US regulators suspended its use, also due to fears over clotting. Prof Harnden said: "If we can mix and match, we'll get much better flexibility - we will be able to potentially use different vaccine booster campaigns in the autumn. And, in fact, mixed schedules may - and this is a big may - but they may give better longer-term protection, and that will be very interesting to see."

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The Prince of Wales appeared close to tears as he inspected the many flowers and tributes left for his father, the Duke of Edinburgh, by well-wishers today. Prince Charles, 72, accompanied by the Duchess of Cornwall, was clearly moved as he paid an emotional visit to Marlborough House Gardens to read some of the messages left by members of the public, his first engagement since the Duke’s death. Dressed in a blue suit with black tie, he bent to read the tributes, at times looking almost overcome by grief. The Duchess, dressed in black, also looked solemn as she bent to look at the messages, paying particular attention to a model Land Rover with the words “The Duke R.I.P” written on the roof. The flowers are among those left at Buckingham Palace and other royal residences. Although the Royal family asked members of the public to make a donation to charity in the Duke’s memory, rather than leave flowers, many opted to pay their respects in the traditional fashion. Each evening, the tributes are taken, with great care, to the private gardens at Marlborough House at St James’s Palace to be laid out by police officers.

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NASA Plans 'Wright Brothers Moment' as 'Ingenuity' Set to Make History

PJ Media 10 April, 2021 - 02:51pm

Ingenuity is a technology demonstration project that could revolutionize the way that our robot landers explore Mars and other planets. The helicopter hitched a ride to Mars on the rover Perseverance that landed on the red planet in February.

“It could be an amazing day,” Tim Canham, NASA’s Ingenuity operations lead, told reporters Friday. “We’re all nervous, but we have confidence that we put in the work and the time and we have the right people to do the job.

Ingenuity is a sprite of a helicopter, just four-pounds, with four pointy legs, two rotor blades that whirl at blinding speed in opposite directions, a solar panel and a fuselage packed with avionics designed to help it navigate the thin Martian atmosphere — another marvel to emerge from the labs at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

It’s no easy feat, flying a helicopter on Mars. The reduced gravity — about one-third of Earth’s — will help it take off and stay aloft. But the paucity of the Martian atmosphere, just 1 percent of the density of Earth’s, doesn’t give the blades much to chew on as they try to gain purchase for liftoff.

The ultra-thin atmosphere on Mars is the equivalent of about 100,000 feet of altitude on Earth, or three times the height of Mount Everest. In order to get off the ground and stay aloft, the rotors on the craft must spin at 2,400 revolutions a minute.

If all goes according to plan, the helicopter could make as many as five flights, 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.

The Perseverance rover will assist in Ingenuity’s flight, attempting to document it and relay signals back to Earth.

Ingenuity is a side benefit to the mission, a technology demonstration that could pave the way for more aircraft on Mars in the future that “could provide a supporting role as robotic scouts, surveying terrain from above,” NASA said.

Comparisons to the Wright Brothers may be a little geeky. The Wrights didn’t have $2.2 billion in tax money to play with. But just to drive the comparison with the Wrights home, Ingenuity has a postage-stamp-size bit of fabric from the brothers’ aircraft attached to a cable under the solar panel.

NASA: how to track the first flight of Ingenuity on Mars - Somag News

Somag News 10 April, 2021 - 02:16pm

NASA: After a long wait, the Ingenuity helicopter will finally take off on Mars this Sunday (11). The first test will be carried out in a region called Van Zyl Overlook, which will allow a good view of the aerodrome that was chosen by the Mars Mission team.

In all, 5 flights will be performed, with this initial. The idea of ​​NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is to check the equipment’s ability to carry out air travel in Martian territory.

The objective of the undertaking is to capture photos, sound and videos of the planet. The records will be unheard of for world science, since much of the environment on Mars is still a mystery to researchers.

The event is purely conceptual and, if successful, will provide an excellent perspective for future missions. A good performance from Ingenuity can define new drone projects to further explore the Red Planet.

The Ingenuity flight will not be broadcast with live images of the drone itself, however, NASA will do a special live to confirm the steps of takeoff and landing. If the helicopter takes off on Sunday, the Space Agency live will have experts to comment on the operation and analyze all the data and details.

The broadcast will take place on the NASA application, on the website and on YouTube and Facebook channels. Despite the possibility of seeing the comments and analysis of the technicians, the streaming will take place at a very different time: Monday (12), around 4:30 am (Brasília time). See the transmission in the video below:

Another live commentary is scheduled to take place a little later, around noon next Monday.

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