Ingenuity’s delayed flight on Mars
The past three days have given the Ingenuity team time to read better what the energy cycle looks like, and more importantly, ensure its energy is positive throughout every step of the process. The helicopter’s first flight will take place on a full battery and will take off a few meters during that first flight before returning to the surface of Mars. It won’t be more than about 15 feet tall, according to NASA.
“Next step (Fly for the first time) This is huge, ”said Tim Canham, Mars helicopter operations chief, during a smart Q&A held today. “Could it be safely in flight and landing? That will be a moment of great victory for the helicopters.”
Images and sounds of Mars from NASA’s Perseverance Rover.
It is currently slated for April 11th, although an official time has not yet been announced. However, the flights will not be live streamed. People returning to Earth will see nothing on the flight until the flight’s telemetry data is retrieved, which will last a few days, or Tuesday, about 40 minutes longer than a day on Earth, NASA said. The Perseverance rover, a rover that recently landed on Mars and brought intelligence to Earth, will watch its flight from about 65 meters away.It will take pictures that will eventually make it on Earth. But it may take some time as well.
Why is NASA’s smart flight a big deal?
What made this first flight a milestone for NASA, in addition to flying the first helicopter on Mars, is that it was completely powered by a pre-programmed sequence. No joystick involved or remote controlled helicopters.
“The sequence (of the flight) was pre-built by a team on the ground,” said the operating engineer. Perseverance, Elio Morillo said during NASA’s Q&A, “These sequences have been tested over the years (but) are pre-canned, we don’t have real-time helicopter controls, they are completely independent. “This poses a huge challenge for the Ingenuity team.What would happen if Mars’ gusts were to occur during flight? Helicopters have sensors that can detect those gusts and correct their path accordingly. Most of the time, the pre-built flight sequences are tested over and over in chambers simulating what intelligence is experiencing on Mars.
The Perseverance will watch Ingenuity’s first flight, about 65 meters from a helicopter on top of Van Zyl Overlook, will be photographed and crews are considering if the rover will be able to record audio. There is a directional mic on the plane. But the team is not sure if it will be able to pick up sound from the helicopter due to its long distances.
Farah Alibay, Head of Endeavor Integration, said it is important to remember that Mars’ atmosphere, which has a density of 1% of Earth’s atmosphere, is quite different from ours and hence sounds travel differently.
After the first flight, persistence and intelligence go their separate ways. The ingenuity begins to charge and prepare for the next flight, and persistence returns to its original mission: to collect samples of Mars for return to Earth during later missions. Although the two vehicles will still communicate over the radio. The base team will talk to Perseverance, and Perseverance will convey a message to Ingenuity, the helicopter will respond to perseverance, and the rover will send a message to Earth.
Ingenuity’s main mission on Mars
As the overall picture of Ingenuity grows, its mission is to demonstrate the technology.
“Intelligence is a test spacecraft for Mars,” Canham said. “It will use very high-detailed recordings … 500 times per second … (for us) to see what happens and characterize the flight on Mars. A fitting analogy is Mars Pathfinder and Sojourner – to try something like never before, and Learn a lot from it … for future engineers and scientists to build bigger and better helicopters for Mars. ”
While waiting for Ingenuity’s first flight on Mars next week, read about Perseverance’s successful Mars landing in February, then watch the rover’s touchdown video. Read this story about the first sights and sounds captured by Perseverance afterwards, then check out this story about the hidden message on the rover’s parachute.
Wesley LeBlanc is a freelance news writer, guide contributor and IGN science guru.You can follow him on Twitter @LeBlancWes.