NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter completes its 17th flight on Mars — despite being designed only for FIVE – BoilingNews


NASA’s Mars helicopter has completed its 17th flight on the Red Planet, despite being designed for only five such missions.

Ingenuity, the first plane to operate from the surface of another world, took off for a 117-second journey as it gets closer to the original airport, where it will await the arrival of the US space agency’s newest rover.

Perseverance is currently exploring the South Séítah region of Mars’ Jezero crater as it searches for ancient microbial life on the Red Planet.

The final flight of the Mars helicopter on December 5 brings the total airtime to 30 minutes and 48 seconds.

In that time, Ingenuity has covered a distance of 3,592 meters, reaching a height of 12 meters and a speed of 10 mph (5 meters per second).

This far exceeds original plans for the 4-pound (1.8-kilogram), 18-inch-tall helicopter plane, which would complete up to five test flights on the Red Planet.

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NASA’s Mars helicopter Ingenuity (circled) has completed its 17th flight on the Red Planet

Ingenuity, the first plane to operate from the surface of another world, took off for a 117-second journey as it moves closer to its original airport, where it will await the arrival of the US space agency's newest rover.

Ingenuity, the first plane to operate from the surface of another world, took off for a 117-second journey as it moves closer to its original airport, where it will await the arrival of the US space agency’s newest rover.

INGENUITY FLIGHTS TILL FURTHER

Flight one: April 19, 2021 with a vertical take-off to 9.8ft, stationary hover and a landing

Flight two: April 22, 2021 with a vertical takeoff to 16 ft, soar then shift west for 14 ft before returning and landing

Flight three: April 25, 2021 with a vertical takeoff to 16 ft, hover, shift north for 328 ft at an airspeed of 2 m/s before returning to land

Flight four: April 30, 2021 with a vertical takeoff to 16 ft, hover, shift 873 ft south at 3.5 m/s before returning to land

Flight five: May 7, 2021 with a vertical takeoff to 33 ft, hover, shift south 423 ft at 3.5 m/s before landing at that new location

Flight Six: May 22, 2021 with a 33 ft vertical takeoff, hover, shift southwest 492 ft at 9 mph, travel 49 ft south, travel 164 ft before returning to land

Flight seven: June 8, 2021 with 33 ft vertical takeoff, hover, shift 348 ft at 9 mph, land at Airfield D

Flight eight: June 21, 2021 with a vertical takeoff, hover, shift southwest 520ft, land on Airfield E 438ft away from Perseverance

Flight nine: July 5, 2021 with a record 2050ft southwest over a prospective survey site at a speed of 16ft per second.

flight ten: July 24, 2021 with a record height of 12 meters over Raised Ridges to Airfield G. Flight duration 165.4 seconds.

Flight eleven: August 5, 2021 by flying 1,250 feet for 130 seconds in preparation for a series of reconnaissance missions for the Perseverance rover.

Flight twelve: August 16, 2021 by flying 1476 ft for 169 seconds, climbing 32.8 ft in the air, over the ‘South Seitah’ region of Mars.

Flight thirteen: September 5, 2021 by flying 690 ft for 160.5 seconds and climbing 26 ft over a particular ridge over the ‘South Seitah’ region of Mars.

Flight fourteen: October 25, 2021 by flying a 6.5ft (2m) ‘short hop’ to test higher RPM settings. It flew for 23 seconds at 1 mph at an altitude of 16 ft (5 m).

Flight fifteen: November 6, 2021 by flying back to the original landing site. It flew a total of 128 seconds at an estimated 11mph.

Flight sixteen: November 20, 2021 by traveling a total of 108 seconds 381 ft (116 m) at an estimated 5 mph.

Flight Seventeen: December 5, 2021 by flying back to Wright Brothers Field at Octavia E. Butler’s landing site. It flew 614 ft (187 m) for a total of 117 seconds at an estimated 6 mph.

It arrived on Mars, tethered to Perseverance’s belly, which landed on Mars on February 18 after traveling through space for nearly seven months.

Ingenuity then performed its historic maiden flight on April 19, 2021, making history as the first powered controlled flight on a planet other than Earth.

As a nod to this feat, Ingenuity wears a small amount of fabric that covered one of the wings of the Wright brothers’ plane, known as the Flyer, during the first powered, controlled flight on Earth in 1903.

After it was proven that flying was possible, the helicopter made four more trips, each longer and with more complicated maneuvering, as engineers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) tried to better understand its performance.

“Few thought we’d make it to flight one, even fewer to five.

“And nobody thought we’d get this far,” said JPL’s Ingenuity team leader Teddy Tzanetos.

En route to an accumulation of more than half an hour in the air, Ingenuity survived eight months of bitter cold, operating from nine unique Mars airfields.

“The aircraft’s continued operations are testament to the robustness of the design and the dedication and passion of our small operations team.”

During Ingenuity’s 17th flight, there was an unexpected interruption to the in-flight data stream as the helicopter descended to the surface.

Although Perseverance serves as the helicopter’s communications base station for engineers on Earth, it was unable at the time to provide the JPL team with enough information to declare the flight a success.

They had to wait for separate data to be downlinked to JPL’s California base last Friday (Dec. 10), confirming that the mission had been a success and that Ingenuity was in excellent condition.

The helicopter did not have to wait long for its next flight, which was due to take place no earlier than yesterday (December 15).

NASA has yet to release any details as to whether or not it took place.

The plan is for Ingenuity to travel another 230 meters (754 feet) at a speed of 2.5 meters per second in 125 seconds.

As with flight 17, number 18 also pushes the limits of radio range and rotorcraft performance.

The JPL team modified the flight sequence to communicate in a low data rate mode, which they hope will give an additional signal strength boost and give the best chance of maintaining a radio link during landing.

“If we lose radio link on landing, it could take several days or weeks for the line of sight between Ingenuity and Perseverance to improve enough to attempt a communication session,” Tzanetos said.

“While delaying our post-flight data analysis is an inconvenience, it is not unexpected and will become the new normal as we continue to operate in challenging terrain in the coming weeks.”

Ingenuity flew 614 ft (187 m) for a total of 117 seconds at an estimated 6 mph.  It goes back to Wright Brothers Field at Octavia E. Butler's landing site, to meet Perseverance

Ingenuity flew 614 ft (187 m) for a total of 117 seconds at an estimated 6 mph. It goes back to Wright Brothers Field at Octavia E. Butler’s landing site, to meet Perseverance

Perseverance serves as the helicopter communications base station for engineers on Earth

Perseverance serves as the helicopter communications base station for engineers on Earth

Ingenuity (pictured in an artist's impression) currently serves as a scout for the Perseverance rover, which searches for ancient microbial life on the Red Planet

Ingenuity (pictured in an artist’s impression) currently serves as a scout for the Perseverance rover, which searches for ancient microbial life on the Red Planet

Ingenuity travels back to Wright Brothers Field at Octavia E. Butler’s landing site.

It currently acts as a scout for the Perseverance rover, collecting samples to be returned to Earth by the early 2030s.

Perseverance made its first test run on Mars on March 4, and on April 4, NASA confirmed that Ingenuity had been dropped to the surface of Mars from Perseverance’s “belly” in preparation for its historic flight.

In the air, Ingenuity tracks its movement using a built-in inertial measurement unit (IMU), which tracks acceleration and rotational speeds.

By integrating this information over time, it is possible to estimate where it is located, how fast it is moving and how it is oriented in space.

The onboard control system responds to the estimated movements by quickly adjusting the control inputs – at a rate of 500 times per second.

NASA MARS 2020: PERVERANCE ROVER AND INGENUITY HELICOPTER LOOKING FOR LIFE ON THE RED PLANET

NASA’s Mars 2020 mission was launched to look for signs of ancient life on the Red Planet in an effort to help scientists better understand how life evolved on Earth in the earliest years of the solar system’s evolution.

Named Perseverance, the main car-sized rover explores an ancient river delta in the Jezero Crater, which was once filled with a 1,600-meter-deep lake.

The region is believed to have harbored microbial life about 3.5 to 3.9 billion years ago, and the rover will examine soil samples to look for evidence of life.

NASA's Mars 2020 rover (artist's impression) looks for signs of ancient life on Mars to help scientists better understand how life evolved on our own planet

NASA’s Mars 2020 rover (artist’s impression) looks for signs of ancient life on Mars to help scientists better understand how life evolved on our own planet

The $2.5 billion (£1.95 billion) Mars 2020 spacecraft was launched on July 30 with the rover and helicopter inside — and successfully landed on February 18, 2021.

Perseverance landed in the crater and will slowly collect samples that will eventually be returned to Earth for further analysis.

A second mission will fly to the planet and return the samples, perhaps by the later 2020s in conjunction with the European Space Agency.

This concept art shows the Mars 2020 rover landing on the red planet via NASA's 'sky-crane' system

This concept art shows the Mars 2020 rover landing on the red planet via NASA’s ‘sky-crane’ system

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