Tue. Jun 15th, 2021

Ingenuity has aced its second and third flight tests. Putting Ingenuity into the air(?) on Mars has been tricky but initial testing is coming back with glowing results as Ingenuity ramps up to faster, longer, and more challenging flight paths. The second flight was similar to the first however Ingenuity flew a little higher; 16 feet (5m) as opposed to 10 feet (~3m). Additionally, some lateral movement was tested which moved Ingenuity in a sideways direction about 7 feet (~2.3m). The third test flight saw Ingenuity rise to 16 feet and then the helicopter zoomed downrange 164 feet (50m) at a rate of 6.6 feet per second (2 meters per second).

Now the flight tests don’t seem like much but they are creating voluminous amounts of data. The Mars atmosphere is 1% of the Earth’s atmosphere and this makes flying on Mars somewhat different than flying on Earth. Ingenuity’s rotors had to be widened to account for this and its rotors need to spin at a much higher rate than if it was on Earth. Though some of these details were attended to in the testing chambers on Earth prior to the mission, Ingenuity was limited in far it could move up and down as well as side to side in the Earth-based testing chambers so a lot of the tests being performed right now are all firsts based on minimal data acquired on Earth and now expanded upon in the limitless atmosphere of Mars. The data is very important to the engineers and data scientists as sieving through this data is what will bring us engineering break throughs and future flights on other planets with bigger and better off-world helicopters. However, we’re getting a little ahead of ourselves.

All of Ingenuity’s flight tests were captured by rover Perseverance via its Mastcam-Z camera with each of the cameras observing different components of the flight test. Perseverance is sitting at Van Zyl Overlook which overlooks the Ingenuitys flight area and serves as a kind of base station while flight testing is performed. While one camera zoomed in on Ingenuity to watch the flight close up, the other camera was zoomed out so the ‘big picture’ could be seen. With closeups and wide-angle prints to go along with the data, this is everything the engineers could dream of to improve and streamline not only Ingenuity’s flight characteristics but also gives them the ability to set their eyes on the future for flying in differing environments, atmospheres, and gravities.

The cameras were also put through their paces and beautiful pictures and frames of Ingenuity flying can be found at NASA’s website or by clicking here for the second flight or here for the third flight. Those links contain the complete articles for the second and third flights that I used as the sources for this article. So PROOF I don’t plagiarize, you Internet Haters 😉 Those links also contain the video data of the flights so if you’d like to see Ingenuity in action on Mars you can see it there.

More About Ingenuity

The Ingenuity Mars Helicopter was built by JPL, which also manages this technology demonstration project for NASA Headquarters. It is supported by NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate, and Space Technology Mission Directorate. NASA’s Ames Research Center and Langley Research Center provided significant flight performance analysis and technical assistance during Ingenuity’s development.

For more information about Ingenuity:

The Ingenuity Mars Helicopter was built by JPL, which also manages this technology demonstration project for NASA Headquarters. It is supported by NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate, and Space Technology Mission Directorate. NASA’s Ames Research Center and Langley Research Center provided significant flight performance analysis and technical assistance during Ingenuity’s development.

At NASA Headquarters, Dave Lavery is the program executive for the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter. At JPL, MiMi Aung is the project manager and J. (Bob) Balaram is chief engineer.

For more information about Ingenuity:

https://go.nasa.gov/ingenuity-press-kit

and

https://mars.nasa.gov/technology/helicopter

At NASA Headquarters, Dave Lavery is the program executive for the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter. At JPL, MiMi Aung is the project manager and J. (Bob) Balaram is chief engineer.

By rjohnson

Computer Nerd

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