NASA Mars helicopter ingenuity continues to push the boundaries of aerial reconnaissance.
4 lbs. (1.8 kg) the helicopter took off from the surface of Mars. Ezero crater today at 10:49 am ET (1449 GMT), its fourth flight to the Red Planet kicks off.
Ingenuity achieved all of its key technology demonstration goals for flights one through three on April 19, April 22 and April 25, so the helicopter operators released it today. Ingenuity covered 872 feet (266 meters) of land and reached a top speed of 8 mph (13 km / h) on a 117-second walk, NASA officials said.
Connected: How NASA’s Martian Helicopter Ingenuity Could Fly the Red Planet
Previous highs set during departure number three were 330 feet (100 m) lateral distance, a top speed of 4.5 mph (7.2 km / h) and a flight time of 80 seconds. (The maximum altitude reached – about 16.5 feet or 5 m – has remained unchanged during the last three flights.)
If all goes to plan, Ingenuity will also take 60 shots with the downward-facing navigation camera and five with a 13-megapixel color imager while airborne today, helicopter crew members said.
We don’t yet know if Ingenuity’s robotic partner, NASA’s Perseverance rover, will be in any of these images. Ingenuity was able to spot the rover from the air during flight number three, taking an unprecedented snapshot in exploration history.
Mission crew members say there are two built-in microphones aboard the Perseverance, and today the rover attempted to record the sound of Ingenuity’s flight for the first time. Again, we will have to wait for more data to be collected to see if this actually happened.
Showing what is possible
Ingenuity and Perseverance together landed on February 18 in the 28-mile wide Jezero, which in ancient times contained a large lake and river delta. From the child of the rover on April 3, training in ingenuity began and preparations began for its flight campaign, which is designed to show that aerial exploration of Mars is possible.
And now we know that it is.
“Future Mars exploration missions can now confidently take into account the additional capabilities that aerial exploration can bring to science missions,” said Laurie Glaze, director of NASA’s planetary science division. said in a statement on Wednesday (April 28).
Indeed, the members of the Ingenuity team are already thinking about the next generation of Mars helicopters is a larger ship that can collect a lot of data about the Red Planet and serve as scouts for rovers or human explorers.
Success 👏 # MarsHelicopter completed its 4th flight, flying farther and faster than ever before. He also took more photographs as he flew over the surface of Mars. We expect these images to appear in a later data transfer, but Hazcam @ NASAPersevere captured part of the flight. pic.twitter.com/Fx3UHu4jgvApril 30, 2021
One day delay
Ingenuity was supposed to take off yesterday (April 29), but the solar-powered helicopter was unable to lift off the ground.
Ingenuity’s debut Mars flight was also delayed due to the helicopter not going into flight mode, which was required to perform the high speed rotor spin test. The mission team adjusted the sequence of commands transmitted from Earth and lifted Ingenuity into the air on April 19, about a week later than originally planned.
This fix puts Ingenuity into flight mode about 85% of the time, as determined by the mission team members. And it looks like yesterday was just one of those relatively rare instances where it didn’t work.
Ingenuity’s original flight campaign was limited to five jumps within one month from the date of deployment. This deadline was set to allow Perseverance to focus on its own mission, which includes looking for signs of a long past. Mars life and collecting samples for future return to Earth.
(Perseverance documented and maintained Ingenuity’s work; for example, communication between a helicopter and a helicopter must be via a rover.)
But Ingenuity’s success to date has extended its mission. NASA officials announced today that the helicopter will soon enter a new “Demonstration of Operations” phase that will last at least 30 additional days on the Red Planet.
“It’s like Ingenuity is finishing her studies,” Project Manager MiMi Aung of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California said at a press conference this morning.
In a new phase, “we can show how a rotorcraft can be used and show the products that only an aerial platform can provide from a bird’s eye view,” Aung said.
The fourth and fifth flights take Ingenuity to a new phase, starting at a completely new location. The helicopter will head to this new location, which will be determined at a later date, on its fifth flight, which is expected to take place in about a week, Aung said.
Ingenuity will fly less frequently in the new phase – probably every two to three weeks, as opposed to a technology demonstration every three days or so, NASA officials said. This will give Perseverance time to really delve deeper into the scientific work. The rover will also not be filming upcoming flights, which will also free up a significant amount of time, according to members of the Perseverance team.
The recently granted extension does not have a tight deadline; Team members will appreciate how ingenuity works after 30 days and decide whether to continue flying. But by the end of August, ingenuity will definitely be grounded forever, NASA officials said.
“This time will allow the rover team to complete the planned scientific activities and prepare for the conjunction of the Sun – the period of mid-October, when Mars and Earth are on opposite sides of the Sun, blocking communication,” – NASA officials wrote in an update. Today.
Mike Wall is the author of “There“(Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Carl Tate), a book on the quest for alien life. Follow it on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.