NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter just achieved ‘freedom in the sky’ in its third aerial adventure over Mars

Left: Ingenuity on the floor of Mars. Right: An illustration of Ingenuity flying. NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU

NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter efficiently executed its third flight over the floor of Mars on Sunday.

The helicopter made spaceflight historical past final Monday when it lifted off Mars and rose 10 toes above the planet’s floor. Never earlier than had a spacecraft performed a managed, powered flight on one other planet.

Then on Thursday, Ingenuity flew even increased – 16 toes – and moved sideways for the first time.

Sunday’s flight promised to be the helicopter’s most daring tour but.

NASA hasn’t launched extra element, but when the flight went according to plan, Ingenuity ought to have reached the identical altitude as final time, however elevated its most airspeed from 0.5 meters per second to 2 meters per second (about 4.5 miles per hour). It seemingly traveled 50 meters (164 toes) north, then flew again the manner it got here and landed gently in the copper-colored Martian mud.

The whole flight ought to have lasted roughly 80 seconds and lined a complete distance of 100 meters (330 toes).

“Flight three is a big step, one in which Ingenuity will begin to experience freedom in the sky,” Håvard Grip, Ingenuity’s chief pilot, wrote Friday earlier than the third tour.

Ingenuity’s staff plans to push the helicopter to its limits – even when it crashes

ingenuity second flight mars helicopter

Ingenuity has confirmed that aerial exploration is feasible on different planets, however its mission is much from over. Now NASA needs to achieve as a lot flight knowledge as potential to tell future space-helicopter efforts.

In as much as two extra flights over the subsequent two weeks, Ingenuity’s controllers plan to push the helicopter as far and quick as it is going to go. In the course of, they expect Ingenuity will crash.

“We really want to push the rotorcraft flights to the limit and really learn and get information back from that,” MiMi Aung, the undertaking supervisor for Ingenuity, stated in a latest press briefing.

Ingenuity flight tracks

Ingenuity snapped the first coloration picture of the Martian floor taken by an aerial car throughout its second flight take a look at on April 22, 2021. NASA/JPL-Caltech

The fifth and last enterprise might take Ingenuity laterally throughout 980 toes of Martian floor, in keeping with NASA’s web site. Aung, nonetheless, stated she would “love” to push it over 2,000 toes.

By the fifth flight, the helicopter “would be unlikely to land safely, because we’ll start going into un-surveyed areas,” Aung stated in a preflight briefing on April 9.

Speeding up may also problem the chopper’s mechanics and its navigation system.

“If we do have a bad landing, that will be the end of mission,” Aung stated. “The lifetime will be determined by how well it lands, pretty much.”

A looming deadline for the final two flights

mars helicopter ingenuity flight nasa gif
An animation of NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter exploring the Martian floor. NASA/JPL-Caltech

Ingenuity’s flights provide just a peek at the potential of future house helicopters, which might discover elements of Mars and different planets which can be inaccessible to rovers. Caves, canyons, mountains, and rocky terrains might all be the area of a brand new era of space-drone explorers.

But the 4-pound helicopter – roughly the dimension of a tissue field – is developing on a looming deadline.

Preparations and a delay attributable to a software issue consumed the first two weeks of NASA’s 30-day window to conduct as much as 5 flights. Less than two weeks stay earlier than Perseverance – the rover that carried Ingenuity to Mars – has to proceed on its essential alien-fossil-hunting mission.

Aung stated Monday that there must be sufficient time to squeeze in all 5 flights as deliberate.

Read the unique article on Business Insider

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