Possible new type of glacier just discovered on Mars

Science

Livescience.com 03 May, 2021 - 06:52am 21 views

Strange landforms look like a Martian version of Antarctic ice streams.

The newfound flow-like features are strange because they occur on flat terrain, said study leader Shannon Hibbard, a doctoral student at the University of Western Ontario in Canada.

"There's lots of evidence that this is an ice-rich area, but we don't have any major topographic relief occurring where these sinuous features are," Hibbard told Live Science. "They're existing in a pretty flat-lying plane, so that was kind of odd." 

Related: 5 Mars myths and misconceptions

Similar features occur in Arcadia Planitia, Hibbard said. Lobate features occur near a set of mountains known as the Erebus Montes that rise from the plain. Sinuous features snake through low-lying areas. She and her colleagues pulled together observations from multiple different instruments to try to identify these features. This included photographs from orbit, thermal data showing the temperature of the surface in both day and night, albedo data that reveals the reflectivity of the surface, information on the dust cover and data on elevation and topography.

The sinuous features were the big mystery, Hibbard said, because they looked like they were made by ice flow, but the terrain wasn't steep enough to explain why the ice would be moving.

"We had to try to figure out what the heck are they, why do they have the thermal signatures that they have, why are they so bright in both day and night, why do they appear to have flow features, why are they channelized, why do they occur near lobate debris aprons?" she said.

The analysis suggested that these features were, in fact, glacial in origin. The sinuous shapes looked similar to other features associated with slow-flowing material seen on Mars, Hibbard said, and the data suggested that these spots were indeed rich in ice.

What the sinuous features look most like, Hibbard said, is ice streams within ice sheets on Earth, which occur primarily in Antarctica. These faster-moving flows of ice aren't well understood on Earth, Hibbard said, much less Mars, but they do show an example of ice flowing in fairly flat terrain.

This is a controversial claim, Hibbard said, because most ice streams on Earth require at least a thin layer of liquid water at their base to lubricate their flow. It's not clear whether subglacial water exists or ever existed on Mars, she said, nor is it clear whether a wet base would be required to cause ice streams to flow on the Red Planet. One possibility is that in the past, when Mars' orbit was tilted differently than it is today and its climate was different, subglacial melt could have occurred.

"Ice streams are something that might be on Mars and might suggest more complex glacial processes have taken place on Mars, which I think is really interesting," Hibbard said.

The next step, she said, is to investigate the terrain surrounding these sinuous features for more clues. Arcadia Planitia has never been studied except from orbit, but it might be an exciting place to send future Mars missions, she added.

"It would be an interesting place to land not only for the accessibility of water ice and abundance of water ice, but also for the scientific value," Hibbard said.

Thank you for signing up to Live Science. You will receive a verification email shortly.

There was a problem. Please refresh the page and try again.

© Future US, Inc. 11 West 42nd Street, 15th Floor, New York, NY 10036.

Read full article at Livescience.com

Ingenuity Completes Fourth Flight On Mars, Gets A New Mission

Hackaday 03 May, 2021 - 09:20am

It’s the same on Mars as it is here — just when you’re getting used to your job, the bosses go and change things up.

At least that’s our read on the situation at Jezero crater, where the Mars Ingenuity helicopter has just had its mission upgraded and extended. In a Friday morning press conference, the Ingenuity flight team, joined by members of the Perseverance team and some NASA brass, made the announcement that Ingenuity had earned an extra 30 sols of flight time, and would be transitioned from a mere “technology demonstrator” to an “operations demonstration” phase. They also announced Ingenuity’s fourth flight, which concluded successfully today, covering 266 meters and staying airborne for 117 seconds.

There are two main drivers of the mission extension. The first is that Ingenuity has achieved all of the technical goals set out for it in terms of proving that a helicopter can fly in the Martian atmosphere and operate autonomously. In doing this, Ingenuity has gathered a large data set that will inform the design of future UAVs for planetary exploration. But that alone would not have been enough to justify the mission extension. Ingenuity was always an add-on, designed to take up as few resources as possible from the primary mission of Perseverance, which is to gather samples in the search for ancient life on Mars. The plan was for the rover to stay near Ingenuity to support flight operations for 30 sols, then head out to the more interesting areas of Jezero crater to explore and gather samples.

But as it turns out, the area around Ingenuity’s operational area, known as Wright Brothers Field, is far more interesting to planetary scientists than originally anticipated, as revealed by Perseverance’s instruments. This presents the opportunity for the rover to stay put for now, get some sampling and science down, and still support Ingenuity’s now-extended mission.

We find this an exciting development, and we’re looking forward to the data and images that come from the now-overlapping missions of Ingenuity and Perseverance. To learn more about these amazing spacecraft, check out our deep dives on the rover itself and its companion helicopter.

[Ed note: NASA missions getting extended is almost standard operating procedure. The Opportunity rover was designed for three months, but ran for 15 years! The Hubble space telescope is still doing science. Why? It’s complicated, but we’ve got something to say about it.]

Yeah, typical. Management announcing changing of plans and schedules on Fridays. Corporate world has arrived on Mars.

At least they had scope. The last startup i worked at only had creep fueled by slippery delusions. One can only dream of a decent bit of scope.

But here, its a success which leads to further investigation and use of an excellent bit of engineering. Though it is amusing to personify it and view it as jaded and oppressed.

Can Ingenuity be programmed to select different landing sites and therefore follow the rover unit? Could it even piggy back(if there’s space)!on the rover itself?

What is the reason why the Ingenuity can’t just follow Perseverance during the mission? Rovers on Mars are moving pretty slow anyways and Perseverance could probably just find a suitable landing field every 100-200m or so. Ingenuity could then just fly to the next landing field when needed (and also do some more missions if the battery charge allows it). I know Ingenuity has been designed as a proof of concept to show powered flight on Mars is possible and it has certainly not been designed for that kind of mission. But on the other hand, at some point in time the rover has to move on and if the copter is still working at that time, they have nothing to lose and could just give it a try. Obviously there is a pretty high risk that Ingenuity will be lost at some time during a mission like that but this is still better than leaving behind a perfectly working copter. Are there any hard technical limitations making that kind of mission extension impossible?

What are the costs at this point beyond a few man-hours? Surely a few extra video clips or aerial photos would be worth the man-hours, if only for more publicity?

I suppose it could be used as a “pathfinder” to check out the route the rover will cover to check for obstacles, geological anomalies and sand people.

I wondered the same, in theory Ingenuity can get a much better view of potential terrain to explore from the forward-facing camera at altitude, why not use it for reconnaissance?

Probably limited by the inability to keep solar panels dust-free and able to recharge the batteries. In the meantime, “keep flying, little scout…”

I really don’t think it was against all odds. The engineers know the atmospheric density and designed and tested accordingly. For me, the only unknown was wind. (assuming a safe landing) I honestly would have been shocked if it didn’t fly. Very capable people making this stuff.

This is not Deep Space Network optimized data transfer :P

What is the cost of operating it for some time now that all the engineering has been done and it has been delivered to Mars? Maybe you’d need 5-10 engineers/mission controllers with a total labor cost of 250k each to keep operating it, so that would be 1.25-2.5 million USD for running it for one year, which is just about 0.05-0.1% of the total cost of the Perseverance mission. This small amount could probably be justified by the publicity alone even if the scientific use is very limited. I don’t really expect the copter to last more than a year, so this part of the mission will be over at some time anyways.

Operating the copter as long as it works (and doesn’t impact the main mission too much) could also gain operational experience and help improve the engineering of the next Mars helicopter (which will probably come with a decent scientific payload). The camera also isn’t that bad (check out the images published so far), so it could definitely provide images from the next 100m or so in front of the rover with a much better resolution/quality than what is available from satellites and this could help with navigational decisions (or even glean at potential scientific targets before deciding whether the rover should make a detour or not).

“Operating the copter as long as it works (and doesn’t impact the main mission too much)”

They’ve just said in a post-4th-flight Q&A that that’s exactly what they’re now planning to do. They may also try it out in the rover best-path scouting mission that later Mars ‘copters will most likely be used for.

As a drone pilot, flight time kind of sucks. I get about 20 minutes, before getting home and on the ground, gets toward the urgent range. Could probably get close to 30 minutes, if I wanted to throw all caution to the wind, maybe travel a little to recover. Takes about an hour, 15 minutes to recharge. I also allow some cool-off time. Basically, that battery is two or more hours away from ready to use. I have spares, no biggie. I don’t know the specs on the Mars ‘copter, but it might only have a few minutes flight time, and need a while to recharge off a small solar panel. Battery capacity, and actual flight time, aren’t exactly the same. Flight time is pretty low, on windy days, compared to calm. Not sure how closely they plan to press their luck, keep it in the air. Guess they are past the point, where they crash it, and leave it where it lay. Maybe the next on, they’ll have a landing pad/dock, on the rover, so the copter can hitch a ride, while recharging.

After a full day of charging, much of the energy is used to keep the copter warm, some energy is used for the electronics. Only 30% of the charge is used for flying and can provide enough for about 90 seconds of flight. Then it has to charge for another day.

Apparently, the issue is not with the battery but rather with the heat generated by super fast blade rotation. The temperature goes up by about 1°C/sec of flight, so all the electronics inside are quite warm after 117 sec run.

Freezing, freezing, freezing, tooo hot, overheating, freezing, freezing. You might be taking the earth atmosphere for granted.

And then you add in the aerodynamics of the thin atmosphere and dust in the gears.

Mars ain’t the kind of place to raise your kids.

(True story: on our first high-altitude balloon, we worried about the cameras getting too cold, b/c well, it’s cold in space. But the accompanying low heat conduction of the thinner air actually lead to one camera overheating, just from battery discharge and the heat on the CPU doing the JPEG encoding.)

I wondered where the Amazon Drone had delivered my package…

Perhaps it can make it to the zombified Insight rover, and blow the dust off it’s solar panels.

Nice paper not behind a paywall with the ‘copter’s tech spec details:

It’s nice to see Ingenuity getting a promotion so soon into it’s job, way to go little fella.

Why are the images/vids so poor? Couldn’t they have used off-the-shelf components from DJI? EVERY Mavic movie on YouTube is better than ANY of the vids coming from Ingenuity. I realize Perseverance bandwidth is limited but even IT’S vids and images are sub-par IMO. All the vids from Perseverance of Ingenuity look like nothing more than a series of distant grainy .jpgs taken with a standard lens. Millions and Billions of taxpayer dollars spent on this thing. I am very disappointed they didn’t spend a few extra bucks on cameras.

Bandwidth is usually the problem. We really need to put a large satellite in orbit around Mars with a high power antenna to act as a strong relay. Communications between Mars and Earth is very slow due to signal noise and the existing relays are overhead for only a few minutes.

Bandwidth between a rover, the existing relay satellites, and Earth is limited to about 30MB / day in optimal conditions and right now, it’s gonna be even worse since Mars is nearly on the opposite side of the Sun so closer to the lower limit of 10MB / day. This is also going to be competing for the bandwidth of everything else going down the pipe from Mars.

It would be interesting to know how far away is the Perseverance Rover from the Opportunity Rover and see if the down force of wind is enought to blow the dust off the solar panels and bring it back to life.

I think mission goals and scope are typically understated to keep expectations in check. While these machines are extremely well-engineered and tested, they are also extremely complex and vulnerable. But, when bad things don’t happen, they will normally have the capability to easily surpass their stated mission baseline. Plus, it hard to predict things that have never been done before.

I get advancement in science and all, but with so many problem happening NOW, on Earth, why are we focusing so much on exploring a place that cannot sustain our lives? If you just took the money spent on this one trip to Mars, and spent it on healthcare for the world, or eliminating starvation, wouldn’t we ALL be better served? The military industrial complex already has enough profits.

Makes sense to keep flying it until it fails. There is definitely an advantage to “test to failure”. Does the copter need to stay with visual range of the rover for communications needs? If not, just go as far as you can in another direction just to see what is there. Or go find Opportunity.

Please be kind and respectful to help make the comments section excellent. (Comment Policy)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

By using our website and services, you expressly agree to the placement of our performance, functionality and advertising cookies. Learn more

Mars Ingenuity helicopter given new scouting mission

CGTN 03 May, 2021 - 09:20am

NASA's illustration of Ingenuity helicopter flying on Mars. /CFP

After proving powered, controlled flight is possible on the Red Planet, NASA's Mars Ingenuity helicopter has new orders: scout ahead of the Perseverance rover to assist in its search for past signs of microbial life.

The next phase extends the rotocraft's mission beyond the original month-long technology demonstration. Now, the goal is to assess how well flyers can help future exploration of Mars and other worlds.

The four-pound (1.8 kilograms) mini chopper successfully performed the fourth of its five originally planned flights on Friday, "going farther & faster than ever before," NASA tweeted. The fifth is planned in the coming days, then its mission will be extended, initially by one Martian month.

Whether it continues beyond that will depend on if it's still in good shape and if it's helping, rather than hindering, the rover's goals of collecting soil and rock samples for future lab analysis on Earth.

Chief engineer Bob Balaram predicted a limiting factor will be its ability to withstand the frigid Mars nights, where temperatures plunge to -130 degrees Fahrenheit (-90 degrees Celsius).  

Ingenuity keeps warm with a solar-powered heater, but it was only designed to last for a month and engineers aren't sure "how many freeze and thaw cycles [it] can go through before something breaks," he said.

NASA initially thought Perseverance would be driving away from the site where it landed at the Jezero Crater on February 18, just north of the planet's equator. That would have meant the rover leaving Ingenuity behind and moving beyond the communications range.

Now though, the agency wants to keep Perseverance in the area for some time after finding a rocky outcrop that they believe contains some of the oldest material on the crater floor. They hope to collect their first sample in July.  

Ingenuity's exploits have captured the public's imagination since it made its first flight on April 19, but NASA said this wasn't a factor in its decision to allow the two robots to keep exploring Mars together.

"We really wish to spend a considerable amount of time where we are and so it's sort of a fortuitous alignment," said Perseverance project scientist Ken Farley.

Copyright © 2020 CGTN. Beijing ICP prepared NO.16065310-3

Copyright © 2020 CGTN. Beijing ICP prepared NO.16065310-3

Copyright © 2020 CGTN. Beijing ICP prepared NO.16065310-3

Palestinian engineer behind helicopter flight on Mars

Anadolu Agency 03 May, 2021 - 09:20am

Stating that he is interested in new discoveries in the field of electric energy use and that he can establish his own company in the future.

As the atmospheric density on Mars is about 1% that of Earth, NASA engineers used ultra-light materials to lift the Ingenuity off the ground, and four propellers, each 123 centimeters long and spinning faster than required on Earth.

From Gaza to Mars: Palestinian engineer behind helicopter flight on red planet

The Times of Israel 03 May, 2021 - 09:20am

The robotic helicopter he developed hitched a ride to Mars on the Perseverance rover, which was launched into space on a rocket in July 2020. He said his feelings were “indescribable” when he watched it touch down on the surface of the red planet in February.

Zoom In ????@NASAPersevere’s Mastcam-Z captured the #MarsHelicopter's first flight. This video was intentionally targeted on the takeoff and landing zone. The helicopter flew out of the camera’s field of vision but the shadow of it hovering is visible. https://t.co/TNCdXWcKWE pic.twitter.com/ArAUGfDbPU

— NASA JPL (@NASAJPL) April 22, 2021

Elbasyouni followed every moment of the expedition, and nervously awaited any signal the helicopter was working once it was launched. When the first images reached Earth showing the helicopter taking flight, “I screamed in the middle of night and woke up everyone in the building,” he said.

It was a triumph hailed as a Wright brothers moment in the history of flight. Since then, Elbasyouni has done numerous TV interviews with Western and Arab media and become a hometown hero in Beit Hanoun.

But he says he’s unlikely to visit anytime soon because of the travel restrictions.

If he wanted to visit he would have to go through Jordan or Egypt, as Israel does not allow Gazans to fly in or out of its international airport.

In Jordan, he would have to wait for a special shuttle to take him from the Allenby Bridge crossing across the Israeli-controlled West Bank and Israel to the Erez Crossing with Gaza. The irregular shuttle only runs every few days. Each direction would require an Israeli permit, a process that can be complicated, time-consuming and uncertain.

Exit permits from Gaza are usually only granted to patients seeking life-saving medical treatment or a small number of businessmen.

His other option would be to go through Egypt and try to enter Gaza through the Rafah crossing, which only opens sporadically and can be closed for months at a time. Egypt imposes its own restrictions on Palestinians, who must apply for travel permits and sometimes pay exorbitant fees to move up in the line.

He says his father, who retired as a surgeon in 2012 and now lives in Germany, visited Gaza via Egypt in 2019 and was stuck there for seven months before leaving through Israel.

Elbasyouni points out that most Americans, including space engineers, only get two or three weeks off a year. “If you go (to Gaza), you may get stuck and lose your job,” he said.

The restrictions on all sides have been tightened since the start of the coronavirus pandemic but long predate it.

Israel says they are necessary to prevent Gaza terror groups from bringing weapons and war materials into the Palestinian coastal enclave. Hamas has fought three wars with Israel and is considered a terrorist group by Israel and Western countries. It has launched tens of thousands of rockets aimed at Israeli cities.

COGAT, the Israeli military body in charge of coordinating civilian affairs in the West Bank and Gaza, says it considers individual requests and allows travel for humanitarian cases. Each request, it said, receives “a thorough examination that involves all the relevant professional offices and subject to security considerations.”

Critics of the blockade say it amounts to collective punishment, with generations of Gazans confined to a vast, open-air prison.

Gisha, an Israeli rights group that closely follows the closures and advocates for freedom of movement, says the “severe, sweeping restrictions” mean that “Gaza’s future scientists, entrepreneurs, and innovators are blocked from accessing potentially life-altering educational and professional opportunities outside the Strip.”

Despite the political situation, Elbasyouni says there are still opportunities for Palestinian entrepreneurs and innovators, even in Gaza, and he hopes that he can provide inspiration for young Palestinians.

“Being part of this project that serves humanity is a source of huge pride,” he said.

I’ll tell you the truth: Life here in Israel isn’t always easy. But it's full of beauty and meaning.

I'm proud to work at The Times of Israel alongside colleagues who pour their hearts into their work day in, day out, to capture the complexity of this extraordinary place.

I believe our reporting sets an important tone of honesty and decency that's essential to understand what's really happening in Israel. It takes a lot of time, commitment and hard work from our team to get this right.

Your support, through membership in The Times of Israel Community, enables us to continue our work. Would you join our Community today?

That’s why we come to work every day - to provide discerning readers like you with must-read coverage of Israel and the Jewish world.

So now we have a request. Unlike other news outlets, we haven’t put up a paywall. But as the journalism we do is costly, we invite readers for whom The Times of Israel has become important to help support our work by joining The Times of Israel Community.

For as little as $6 a month you can help support our quality journalism while enjoying The Times of Israel AD-FREE, as well as accessing exclusive content available only to Times of Israel Community members.

NASA talks next steps for Mars helicopter

Associated Press 03 May, 2021 - 09:20am

Fourth Flight a Success for NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter

NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory 03 May, 2021 - 09:20am

NASA Makes New Plans For Ingenuity Helicopter On Mars

NPR 01 May, 2021 - 05:47pm

NASA is allotting additional time to test the operational capabilities of its groundbreaking Ingenuity helicopter, which completed its first powered flight on Mars less than two weeks ago. Since then, the device has completed a total of four flights. If all goes well following its fifth voyage, NASA says it plans to jump start the "next phase" of tests.

"The Ingenuity technology demonstration has been a resounding success," associate administrator for the NASA Science Mission Directorate Thomas Zurbuchen said in a statement Friday.

NASA's Perseverance rover, which landed on Feb. 18, brought the helicopter to the Red Planet. The rover has since been exploring the planet's terrain near the landing location, and its success has allowed for increased time to test the Ingenuity helicopter, NASA says.

I’m headed south to my first exploration zone, and guess who’s tagging along? The #MarsHelicopter and I will be hitting the trail as it moves into a new phase to demonstrate how future rovers and aerial explorers can work together. https://t.co/oYK5sydeN4

The objective of the rover is to examine rocks and soil found on the planet that could indicate if previous life existed there 3.5 billion years ago. The mission will take two Earth years, which comes out to a single year on Mars.

Notably, NASA announced on April 21 that the rover's technology was effectively able to produce a small amount of breathable oxygen from the Mars atmosphere.

"Ingenuity's transition from conducting a technology demonstration to an operations demonstration brings with it a new flight envelope," NASA said.

"There will be more precision maneuvering, greater use of its aerial-observation capabilities, and more risk overall," it added.

The additional testing will be conducted over the next few months, ending no later than August.

While the first helicopter flight went just 10 feet above the ground, each voyage has drastically increased in distance. On the fourth flight, the helicopter rose 16 feet in the air and made a round trip of 872 feet across the planet.

An added power in the updates comes when looking at the imagery captured by the cameras atop the Perseverance rover, allowing people on Earth to witness the helicopter hover above the red and orange rocky desert floor.

NASA Ingenuity helicopter nears daredevil status with ambitious fourth flight on Mars

CNET 01 May, 2021 - 12:20pm

NASA also shared a nifty image from one of the Perseverance rover's cameras showing the helicopter in flight in the distance.

Success 👏#MarsHelicopter completed its 4th flight, going farther & faster than ever before. It also took more photos as it flew over the Martian surface. We expect those images will come down in a later data downlink, but @NASAPersevere's Hazcam caught part of the flight. pic.twitter.com/Fx3UHu4jgv

Ingenuity had originally been scheduled for a fourth flight on Thursday, but a known glitch prevented the rotorcraft from switching into flight mode. The chopper remained safe and healthy and ready for the redo.

The plan for the latest test was to fly the helicopter to an altitude of 16 feet (5 meters), collect images of the landscape below, hover and then head back to its takeoff spot. The flight path was set to take it 436 feet (133 meters) downrange and last 117 seconds.

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

It takes time to send the data back from Mars, but NASA is expecting to receive a bounty of photos snapped by the helicopter during the flight. This will help prove the rotorcraft's potential for use as a scout that can assist surface vehicles like rovers as they explore from the ground.

NASA said the plucky chopper already "has met or surpassed all of its technical objectives." That gave the helicopter team license to try the more daring fourth flight to push its capabilities in the thin atmosphere of Mars.

Ingenuity will soon move into a new demonstration phase if its planned fifth flight is also successful. The next phase will prioritize Perseverance and look at how Ingenuity can assist the rover's mission to study Mars and look for signs of ancient microbial life.

Perseverance is on the move and looking for interesting rocks to check out. Ingenuity may try to tag along. "The helicopter can use these opportunities to perform aerial observations of rover science targets, potential rover routes, and inaccessible features while also capturing stereo images for digital elevation maps," said NASA in a statement on Friday.

The rotorcraft no longer has to prove that powered, controlled flight is possible on another planet. It's done that and more. Every flight from here on out will just add to its aerial legacy.   

Follow CNET's 2021 Space Calendar to stay up to date with all the latest space news this year. You can even add it to your own Google Calendar.       

NASA's Ingenuity completes FOURTH flight on Mars

Daily Mail 30 April, 2021 - 02:41pm

By Stacy Liberatore For Dailymail.com and Ryan Morrison For Mailonline

NASA announced Friday that Ingenuity successfully completed its fourth flight, which saw the small helicopter 'fly farther and faster than ever before.'

The $85 million drone traveled 872 feet (266 meters) at a height of 16 feet (5 meters) for two minutes.

The American space agency received the data downlink at 1:39pm ET that showed the copter took off from 'Wright Brothers Field' under the watchful gaze of the Perseverance rover at 10:12am ET.

Perseverance, which sat some 210 feet away, snapped a picture of its travel companion's fourth flight through the thin atmosphere on Mars. 

'Success. #MarsHelicopter completed 4th flight, going farther & faster than ever before. It also took more photos as it flew over the Martian surface. We expect those images will come down in a later data downlink, but @NASAPerseverance's Hazcam caught part of the flight,' NASA's JPL shared on Twitter.

The flight was initially set for Thursday, but the data downlink showed Ingenuity did not transition to flight mode - meaning it never left the ground.

NASA received the data downlink at 1:39pm ET that showed the copter took off from 'Wright Brothers Field' under the watchful gaze of the Perseverance rover at 10:12am ET (pictured)

'Ingenuity loves Mars,' project manager MiMi Aung told reporters. 'It takes off and I almost feel the freedom that it feels.' 

The space agency said it would continue to push the four-pound copter to its limit in each subsequent test, this time almost doubling the speed of the third flight.

Due to delays in sending data from the 187 million miles between Jezero crater on Mars and NASA JPL in California, the team waited in suspense for three hours or so before receiving confirmation of the successful flight.

The small craft achieved all of its goals including flight duration, distance and speed, in the first three trips - so the fourth 'pushed the envelope' beyond what the small rotorcraft was designed to achieve by NASA JPL engineers.

The flight was initially set for Thursday, but the data downlink showed Ingenuity did not transition to flight mode - meaning it never left the ground

The small craft achieved all of its goals including flight duration, distance and speed, in the first three trips - so the fourth 'pushed the envelope' beyond what the small rotorcraft was designed to achieve by NASA JPL engineers (pictured is the copter's third flight)

Ingenuity was set to soar up to 16 feet above the Martian airfield, head south over rocks, sand ripples and impact craters for 872 feet and used its navigation camera to collect images of the surface every four feet.

As it flew, the rotorcraft was to have used its downward-looking navigation camera to collect images of the surface until it traveled a total of 436 feet downrange.

Ingenuity was designed as a technology demonstrator rather than carrying any of its own science experiments or equipment.

It rode to Mars attached to the belly of the SUV-size Perseverance rover.

The helicopter took off from the 'Wright Brothers Field' on Monday April 19, making history as the first powered flight on another world.

For the first flight, the helicopter took off, climbed to about 10ft above the ground, hovered in the air briefly, completed a turn, and then landed. 

It is built to be light and strong to survive the harsh Martian environment.

It weighs just under 4lb and is only 19 inches tall as it has to fly in the much thinner atmosphere - about 1% that of the atmosphere found on Earth.

It can fly up to 980ft, go up to 15ft in the sky and can spend about 90 seconds in the air before landing.

The rotors are 4ft in diameter and the craft includes solar panels that charge lithium-ion batteries.

It has a 30 day lifespan, with a total of five flights expected in that time. 

Then, Ingenuity was set to hover and take images with its color high-definition camera before heading back to Wright Brothers Field to land.

Perseverance watched the fourth flight unfold from about 210 feet away, as it did with the previous flights.

On its fifth flight in another week or so, the four-pound (1.8-kilogram) chopper will move to a new airfield on Mars, allowing the rover to finally start focusing on its own rock-sampling mission. 

The rover is seeking signs of ancient life at Jezero Crater, home to a lush lakebed and river delta billions of years ago. 

A few hours before confirming the flight, NASA had announced Ingenuity is getting a promotion as an operation partner for Perseverance.

The helicopter is set to conduct aerial scouting over the surface of Mars, which will begin following its next two flights.

Friday's announcement comes as the Perseverance rover is ahead of schedule with the thorough checkout of all vehicle systems since touching down February 19.

'With the Mars Helicopter's energy, telecommunications, and in-flight navigation systems performing beyond expectation, an opportunity arose to allow the helicopter to continue exploring its capabilities with an operations demonstration, without significantly impacting rover scheduling,' NASA shared in a statement.

The operations demonstration will begin in about two weeks with the helicopter's sixth flight. 

Until then, Ingenuity will be in a transitional phase that includes its fourth and fifth forays into Mars' crimson skies. 

Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, said: 'The Ingenuity technology demonstration has been a resounding success.

'Since Ingenuity remains in excellent health, we plan to use it to benefit future aerial platforms while prioritizing and moving forward with the Perseverance rover team's near-term science goals.'

The small craft achieved all of its goals including flight duration, distance and speed, in the first three trips - so the fourth will 'push the envelope' beyond what the small rotorcraft was designed to achieve by NASA JPL engineers.

Flying on Mars is particularly challenging due to the fact its atmosphere is just one percent of Earth's at ground level, and while the lower gravity, a third of that on Earth, helps, it is only a partial offset against the thinner atmosphere.

This means that in order to fly, the helicopter has to be ultra-light and rotate its blades extremely fast in order to achieve lift.  

The drone was designed as a technical demonstration to see if a flying component would be viable and possible for future planetary science and exploration missions.

It has no science equipment on board, beyond a navigation camera and a horizon camera in full color.

Ingenuity made history on April 19 when it became the first powered craft to take off and land on another world, something NASA dubbed its 'Wright Brothers moment'.

Ingenuity was set to soar up to 16 feet above the Martian airfield, head south over rocks, sand ripples and impact craters for 276 feet and used its navigation camera to collect images of the surface every four feet

Previously flights saw Ingenuity take off from the Martian airfield and soar 10 feet in the air 

It travelled up 10 feet into the air, hovered and then landed back on Martian soil on the landing site the agency has since named after the famed airplane inventors.

For the second flight Ingenuity went higher and further than during the first, travelling 16ft into the air, hovering and accelerating seven feet sideways.

The third flight pushed this a step further, also going up 16 feet, then travelling 164 feet at 4.5 miles per hour, before landing back down on the surface of Mars.

'From millions of miles away, Ingenuity checked all the technical boxes we had at NASA about the possibility of powered, controlled flight at the Red Planet,' said Lori Glaze, director of NASA's Planetary Science Division.

'Future Mars exploration missions can now confidently consider the added capability an aerial exploration may bring to a science mission.'

A few hours before confirming the flight, NASA had announced Ingenuity is getting a promotion as an operation partner for Perseverance. The helicopter is set to conduct aerial scouting over the surface of Mars, which will begin following its next two flights

This black-and-white image was taken by the navigation camera aboard NASA's Ingenuity helicopter during its third flight

The Ingenuity team had three objectives to accomplish to declare the technology demo a complete success.

They completed the first objective about six years ago when the team demonstrated in the 25-foot-diameter space simulator chamber of JPL that powered, controlled flight in the thin atmosphere of Mars was more than a theoretical exercise.

The second objective – to fly on Mars – was met when Ingenuity flew for the first time on April 19.

The team surpassed the last major objective with the third flight, when Ingenuity rose 16 feet, flying downrange 164 feet and back at a top speed of 6.6 feet per second - even snapping a photo of Perseverance along the way.

The comments below have not been moderated.

The views expressed in the contents above are those of our users and do not necessarily reflect the views of MailOnline.

By posting your comment you agree to our house rules.

Do you want to automatically post your MailOnline comments to your Facebook Timeline?

Your comment will be posted to MailOnline as usual.

Do you want to automatically post your MailOnline comments to your Facebook Timeline?

Your comment will be posted to MailOnline as usual

We will automatically post your comment and a link to the news story to your Facebook timeline at the same time it is posted on MailOnline. To do this we will link your MailOnline account with your Facebook account. We’ll ask you to confirm this for your first post to Facebook.

You can choose on each post whether you would like it to be posted to Facebook. Your details from Facebook will be used to provide you with tailored content, marketing and ads in line with our Privacy Policy.

Part of the Daily Mail, The Mail on Sunday & Metro Media Group

Science Stories