Ingenuity Helicopter

NASA makes history with first ever controlled flight in another planet

NASA released an historic image of the flight today (Image: NASA)

NASA has declared that its Ingenuity Mars helicopter has completed the first-ever powered, operated flight on another planet.

On Monday morning, the miniature solar-powered robot successfully took flight on Mars, floating about 10 feet or three meters in the air.

It stayed in the air for less than a minute before crashing down to the Martian surface.

A shadow of the twin-rotor Ingenuity hovered above the planet's surface in photos, and it was seen grounded on the surface in a video.

Cheers and cheering greeted the announcement "Ingenuity has completed its first flight – the first flight of a powered aircraft to another world" at mission control.

"We can now claim that human beings have flown a rotorcraft on another planet," MiMi Aung, Ingenuity Mars Helicopter project manager at Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), said.

"We've been dreaming about our Wright Brothers moment on Mars for a long time, and now it's finally here."

"It happened," NASA tweeted. Our #MarsHelicopter demonstrated today that powered, controlled flight from another planet's surface is possible. To make the opportunity a reality, a little imagination, perseverance, and spirit are needed."

Tim Peake, a British astronaut, was among those who congratulated the NASA team.

"Huge congratulations to the whole team who have just made history," he tweeted. The #MarsHelicoper took to the skies today from the newly christened 'Wright Brothers Sector' on #Mars."

The first flight's data was returned to Earth a few hours after the robot's autonomous test, which was carried to Mars by the Perseverance rover and landed on February 18 this year.

The Perseverance Twitter account posted a video of the aircraft spinning its rotors on the planet's surface.

“You wouldn't believe what I just saw,” it said. Many images and video to follow...”

The 1.8kg helicopter was transported to Mars by the space agency's Perseverance rover, which flew for 40 seconds. Because of Mars's lower gravity, it only weighs 0.68 kilograms.

To raise the drone off the ground, it is equipped with two rotors that rotate in opposite directions.

In addition to the lower gravity, the helicopter must navigate the Martian atmosphere, which is 100 times thinner than Earth's.

The flight was dubbed a "Wright brothers moment" by NASA, which also added a stamp-sized piece of the aviation pioneers' 1903 plane wing to Ingenuity.

A good flight, it said, could pave the way for new modes of exploration on Mars and other planets in the solar system, including Venus and Saturn's moon Titan.

Ingenuity was supposed to travel three meters above Jezero Crater and hover there for 30 seconds before spinning and returning to Earth.

Data returned from Mars, according to officials, confirmed that this had happened.

However, there were concerns that the pre-programmed flight would fail due to the harsh conditions on Mars.

Ingenuity captured images and video of the planet's surface with its sensors.

On the way back to Earth, Perseverance fed data, but there was a three-hour time difference between the planets, which are 173 million miles apart.

The helicopter does not have any research instruments on board because it is a technology demonstration.

Additional experimental flights will be attempted by Ingenuity, which will include longer distances and higher altitudes.

Under a 30-Martian-day (31-Earth-day) demonstration timeframe, the helicopter will attempt up to five test flights.

Nasa will not be able to control the helicopter remotely because it is planned to be largely autonomous.

This is due to the distance between Earth and Mars; a radio signal from Mars takes more than 11 minutes to reach Earth.

The space agency has stated that it will not be able to examine engineering data or photographs from each flight until after it has occurred.

On February 18, the 1.5-foot-tall copter arrived on Mars inside the Perseverance rover.

The first flight was supposed to take place earlier this month, but it was postponed due to a technical problem with the rotors during a drill.

“During a high-speed spin test of the rotors, the command sequence controlling the test ended early due to a watchdog timer expiration,'" NASA explained.

"This happened when the flight computer was transitioning from ‘Pre-Flight' to ‘Flight' mode."

“The helicopter is safe and sound, and it has transmitted the entirety of its telemetry data to Earth.

"The watchdog timer keeps track of the instruction sequence and warns the machine if something goes wrong."

“It keeps the system secure by not proceeding if a problem is detected and resolved according to plan.”

Publish : 2021-04-20 09:40:00

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