NASA’s Mars helicopter Ingenuity: What you need to know before its first flight

NASA's Mars helicopter, Ingenuity, could change space exploration forever

NASA flew on Mars in this NASA animation.

NASA / JPL-Caltech

NASA’s wheeled rovers have revealed an incredible amount about Mars. From Learning about the wet history of the planet And to discover the chemistry of its soil Presence of methane in its environment, Rolling robots have been indispensable in photographing a picture of one of Earth’s closest neighbors. They are notable, but they cannot cover a lot of ground – slow movement is important to prevent them from hitting a cliff or hitting a cliff.

But imagine if they could fly.

Drawing a set of wings for a robot on another planet will open a new path to explore other worlds. Alan Duffy, professor of astrophysics at Swinburne University in Australia, says, “For the closeup scene without the risk of damage from collisions or falls, you have the ability to fly at great speed wherever you want.”

NASA has done the same with Ingenuity. Light rotorcraft is scheduled to fly on Mars On 11 April. If it flies, it will be the first time humans have achieved a powered, controlled flight to another planet – a Wright Brothers moment in another part of the universe.

There are significant challenges to flying on Mars, however, and Ingenuity has to contend with a planet that particularly enjoys killing spacecraft. Should it succeed in getting off the ground, it will pave the way for future missions, which will be further deepened in the universe.

Why simplicity is so simple here.

Preflight check

If you’re wondering how NASA got a helicopter on Mars and you feel like you haven’t heard much about it, it’s probably because NASA’s Perseverance Rover has stolen all the limelight. Congenital is a “ride-along” mission and a technical performance. This is not a demonstration of any science on Mars. Rather, it is designed to show that powered flight is possible in another world.

During the long time of the rover from Earth to Mars, the ingenuity in the stomach of the firmament had gone away, which was discontinued in July. Stroller Come back to the planet in february, And Ingenuity was safe and healthy from the harsh, cold Martian surface until April 4 Perseverance deposits Chopper carefully On the soil.

On the board’s tenacity, the Ingenuity was protected and operated by Rover’s suite of devices. But it was later abandoned, and rolled strongly, Ingenuity was cold and alone – quite literally. The temperature of Mars falls below freezing at night to about 130 degrees Fahrenheit. Fortunately, Ingenuity showed that it could cope with the cold. Survived the first night, separated from his rover sail.

However the relationship with perseverance has not ended. When Ingenuity takes its first flight, it will be the persistence that brings those messages back to Earth

On April 6, Ingenuity took its first photo of Mars, A low-resolution, orange and brown snapshot of the surface. It’s not much, but if you want to get technical, this is a vehicle for the first time Capable If taken a picture of the surface of the red planet of flight, it is very good.

Cabin doors are closed now

There are many challenges to get a flight on Mars, but the main one is wind..

There is a distinct difference in atmosphere between the red planet and the Earth. The Martian environment is incredibly thin compared to our own, so getting a lift is far more difficult. Designed to deal with this problem. While we have already flown it with a chopper, said everything from chopper to rotorcraft, this technique reminds me the most that it is a drone.

However, its blades are too large for a similarly sized craft on Earth, and they spin at about 2,400 rpm – six times faster than Earth-based craft. At this speed and size, Earth-based tests have shown that Ingenuity should be able to land on Mars without issue.

Unlike a drone, however, no one is operating the vehicle in real time. The Ingenuity team had to upload the instructions well in advance to the craft and would receive the data back after its flight. Designed to keep itself very autonomous and healthy during communication delays between two planets.

Prepare for takeoff

Before landing strongly at the Jazero Crater on February 18, the Ingenuity team was searching for an “airfield” and an adjoining “flight zone” – a flat, mostly empty area on the surface of Mars that would not jeopardize Ingenuity’s safety .

Fortunately, one was originally next door to the landing site. “We started to realize that we could have an awesome airfield right in front of our noses,” said Håvard Fjvr Grip of NASA, chief pilot of Ingenuity. Gripe says the team looked at “every rock and pebble” before setting a home base for the helicopter.

Within 30 Sol (about 31 Earth days), Ingenuity plans to make five flights, but the first is the most important. It will be a very simple flight.

At an elevation of about three meters (about 10 feet), the rotorcraft will be straight up, away from the place for 30 seconds. It will then take a short turn before coming down and landing again. During the flight, Ingenuity’s eyes and brain will be working overtime, preprocessed by the team to keep the craft safe.

According to Gripe, to understand where it is and make any necessary trajectory changes – up to 500 times per second, 30 images per second have to be snapped to another part of the ground. This autonomy ensures that Ingenuity will not be blown away by a sudden Marten gust.

Future missions

As NASA engineers have repeated many times: Ingenuity is a “technology demonstration”, just like the first rover on Mars, Sojourner, which rolled across the planet in 1997.

In many ways, Ingenuity has already been successful: it survived a trip to Mars, established itself on the planet and survived its first night alone in the cold. This will be its first flight not only to the discovery of Mars but also to the discovery of our entire solar system.

Jonty Horner, a professor of astrophysics at the University of Southern Queensland, says, “If Ignity proves that we can successfully make pilot aircraft on other planets, it will expand the options for exploration in the future.”

Flight is a powerful tool of exploration. If robots can stay in the air, they will be able to climb quickly into mountainous areas, to check for cracks in the hills, to fly quickly over lakes or lake shores and to avoid danger. With the right equipment, they can be able to snatch samples and even bring them into a rolling robot. You can also imagine a Mars rover-rotorcraft combo in the future, allowing space agencies to more accurately scout their landing location and decide the best place to roll the next day.

There are other missions – and worlds – that will also benefit from Ingenuity’s demo.

Dragonfly will detect Saturn’s moon, Titan.


Is one such mission NASA Dragonflu, Who calls Horner Ingenuity’s “elder sister”, will visit Mission Titan, one of which Saturn’s most intriguing moon. The Moon is rich in organic matter, has an nitrogen-like atmosphere like Earth, and is home to Large scale methane lakes And the storm. It may also have signs of life, past or present.

“The Titan is unlike any other place in the solar system, and the Dragonfly is like no other mission,” says Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate. It is slightly more ambitious than Ingenuity, which has all the necessary equipment to search for signs of life in a spacecraft and to study the Selk effect crater, once suspected of containing liquid water. Dragonfly is scheduled to launch in 2027 and reach Titan by 2034.

If the birthright moves out of the ground, the dream of flying other will become a reality – beginning in the next era of planetary space exploration.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *