Are you ready for a little ingenuity?
NASA will be launching a spacecraft on another planet this week, making its first attempt at a controlled spacecraft.
A small helicopter called Ingenuity is currently on the surface of Mars, where it has been deposited by a diligent rover. On February 18 it landed in the Jessero abyss.
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab (JBL) says it will build a short, running aircraft before Thursday, April 8.
Will the Wright Brothers’ first flight to Earth go down in history on that date or a few days later, as they did on December 17, 1903? Probably, Ingenuity has a very special good luck The first running on Earth, from a controlled aircraft.
However, ingenuity is considered a high risk, high reward technology demo, so anything can happen.
Here’s what you need to know – and how to follow everything online:
What is ingenuity?
It is a three-rotor autonomous rotorcraft — a drone — weighs 4 pounds / 1.8 kilograms. Its four carbon fiber blades, arranged in two rotors, rotate in opposite directions at a speed of about 2,537 rpm, many times faster than needed on Earth, to calculate that Mars’ atmosphere is 99% less dense.
When is ingenuity going to fly, what is the schedule?
On Thursday, April 8, the test with NASA will begin. However, the space agency said the once-used ingenuity would be 30 Mars or Sol (31 Earth days) to conduct its test flight campaign.
Small photograph already hanging above the surface of Mars (see below). The diligent rover on its surface will quickly run a distance of 16 feet / 5 meters, so the ingenious sun will begin to recharge its batteries on its solar panel.
That 30-hour clock will start beating once you confirm that diligence and ingenuity are communicated via radio. This is very important because JBL will diligently receive and relay the final flight instructions from the mission controllers. The ingenuity is completely autonomous — no one can control the helicopter with the joystick, because the instructions from Earth to Mars via radio take five to 20 minutes.
After some priority testing, aircraft testing should begin, including the movement of its rotor blades.
How to see ingenuity online
When the checks are completed, the ingenuity rises, climbing at a rate of about 3 feet / 1 meter per second and circling at a height of 10 feet / 3 meters from the surface for up to 30 seconds. This will change the direction slightly. Then the ingenuity will descend to the surface of Mars and touch down again.
Increasingly ambitious planes will follow, but we know whether this first flight was a success several hours after the first took place – diligent ingenuity cuts down on the first set of engineering data and sends it to Earth. It may come with some low resolution black and white photos from the ingenious native navigation camera. Color images will follow – but no video of ingenuity.
If we look at the Perseverance Rover’s navigation cameras and the Mastcam-Z, we’ll see those pictures, pictures and video of the first flight of the ingenuity from a distance.
If the first running, controlled flight of a plane on another planet is successful, they will all be very special monuments.
Here are the top social media accounts to look out for:
Web Light: NASA TV
How dangerous is the first flight of ingenuity?
The Martian atmosphere is 1% denser than the Earth’s surface. It receives only 50% of the solar energy that reaches the earth during the day. At night it can get as cold as -130º F / -90ºC, which can freeze and decompose ingenious electricity. So Ingenious is very lightweight and it has internal heaters powered by solar panels.
“Every step we have taken since this voyage began six years ago is an area unknown in aviation history,” said Bob Balaram, chief engineer of JBL’s Mars helicopter. “And being positioned on the surface would be a bigger challenge. Surviving the first night on Mars alone would be even bigger if the rover didn’t protect it and keep it running.”
What happens next if the ingenuity is successful?
Ingenuity will attempt five test flights inside the 30-Tuesday-31 (31-Earth-Day) demonstration window.
After very short flights, it will fly further and further in an attempt to see what lies ahead of the rover of perseverance. It is important on a rocky planet like Mars because most of its surface is very hard for a rover to travel on.
For a long time, Ingenuity’s successful rover + drone was the default way to explore the surface of a planet.
In addition to providing photos and video of robots or human intelligence, drones such as ingenuity can access rovers that are very difficult to reach, and can carry light payloads from one site to another.
We could even see A nail-drone On the way to Mars for ingenuity.
What to do if ingenuity fails?
It might. “Intelligence is a test engineering aircraft test — we want to see if we can fly to Mars,” said Mimi Ang, project manager for Intelligence Helicopter at JBL. “There are no scientific tools on board and no targets for obtaining scientific information.”
It’s about seeing if you can fly to Mars, so the ingenuity will collect as much engineering data as possible to help with future missions. Ingenuity is a pathfinder — so if it fails there will be no impact on the science collection of the Mars 2020 mission.
“Tuesday is tough,” Ang said. “Our plan is to implement whatever Red Planet throws in the same way we have handled every challenge we have faced in the last six years – together, with determination and a lot of hard work … and a little ingenuity.”
Either way, ingenuity does not go back to perseverance. Its tests are complete — failure or success — the drone will be on the ground at the final moment. Soon, the rover will be out of range as it continues its land-based voyage.
I like clear skies and wide eyes.