NASA’s Mars helicopters surpassed expectations: The ingenuity completed its fourth flight on Friday, traveling farther on the surface of Mars than any previous voyage.
NASA engineers prepare for the 4-pound helicopters to crash as they are pushing to new limits with each flight. But in this case, the tiny rotor ships soared over rocks, waves, sand and small craters at record speeds.
NASA has not yet released details of this flight. But the plan calls for Ingenuity to climb 16 feet in the air and reach a top speed of 3.5 meters per second, which NASA engineers aren’t sure they can.
So far, the helicopters have proven to be very successful, with NASA announcing last Friday that it would give Ingenuity an extended mission. The original plan was to abandon the helicopter after the fifth flight. But NASA engineers now plan to turn Ingenuity̵7;s photographs into a 3D map of the uncharted terrain covered Friday. Based on that information, they will select a new airport where the drones will attempt to land during the fifth flight in about a week.
Once in the new airport, Ingenuity is set to spend another 30 days of operational testing that NASA might want to operate on future space helicopters. This includes reconnaissance and mapping, observing the fascinating characteristics of Mars from the air, and observing rugged areas the rover cannot reach.
“The ability to fly a helicopter off terrain the rover cannot explore and retrieve scientific data – this is especially important for future missions that can combine the rover with reconnaissance helicopters.” Endeavor scientist Ken Farley said at a briefing on Friday.
4th flight of Ingenuity
The first attempt at Air Adventures on Friday was unsuccessful. The flight was originally scheduled for Thursday. But a non-damaging software glitch prevented the helicopter from being lifted.NASA engineers expect results to be achieved in 15% of flight efforts.
If Friday Ingenuity’s flight goes as planned, it will likely depart at 10:46 a.m. ET and fly for 117 seconds.The intelligence is programmed to travel about 436 feet south, photographing the Martian surface. All the way At that point expect to hover and shoot with a color camera, then roll around and land in the same spot.
In Ingenuity’s first flight on April 19, the helicopter made history by rising 10 feet above the surface of Mars. Never before has a spacecraft operated a controlled and powered flight on another planet. Then, on April 22, Ingenuity reached a height of 16 feet and moved sideways for the first time.
On Sunday, the helicopter traveled 50 meters (164 feet) – almost half the length of a football field. It is also moving faster, increasing the aircraft speed to 2 meters per second, or about 4.5 miles per hour. Until that flight, intelligence had never flown so fast, even during testing on Earth.
Friday’s flight was the bravest of the helicopter. But things are getting more and more risky.
Intelligence and persistence are beginning a new phase of the mission.
When Ingenuity arrives at the new airport, Perseverance rover, which carries helicopters to Mars, is ready to head for the main mission on the Red Planet: the hunt for ancient alien microbes fossils. The aim is to collect dozens of rock samples and store them for future spacecraft to retrieve and bring them back to Earth. This will be the first sample humanity ever brought home from Mars.
In the meantime, Ingenuity’s next flight will gather information on new terrain that is too dangerous for the rover.
“In doing these operational scenarios, we naturally push the limits of intelligence,” said MiMi Aung, project manager at Ingenuity, in a Friday briefing. “We hope that we will fly over unexplored terrain and over time we will transfer to a poor airport, so there is a high probability of a bad landing.”
Aung previously said a bad landing would end Ingenuity’s flight.
Flying on Mars is not an easy task.
For aviation ingenuity, a number of factors must be appropriate. The helicopter flies manually, using a camera to track the nature of the surface on Mars to navigate. Therefore, there must not be too much dust on the camera lens as it can interfere with navigation.
Accelerate the challenge of chopper mechanics and navigation as well.
“We lead by photographing the ground below,” Ingenuity’s chief pilot, Håvard Grip, said in a recent briefing. And as we travel faster on the ground, the features in those images will disappear from you faster.
During a test flight, NASA engineers were able to prevent a collision by hitting an emergency landing button. But on Mars, they can’t control like that.
No matter what happens after this, NASA engineers have considered Ingenuity’s mission a success.
“If Ingenuity is to crash after the first flight, we still have a few other milestones, including escaping, charging on the way, and surviving in, exiting, landing and landing,” said Shannah Withrow-Maser. Ingenuity’s vehicle system leader just wrote on Reddit.
“Deploying from the rover and surviving a cold Tuesday night is no small task,” she added. “If the flight is unsuccessful, we will have a lot of information and lessons learned. Think everything is a bonus!”