Science & Technology

NASA’s ingenious Mars helicopter itself survives the first frigid Martian night

In this figure, NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter stands on the surface of the red planet as NASA’s Perseverance Rover (partially shown on the left) rolls down. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech

After being deployed by, it passes through the frigid Martian temperatures NASAThe Perseverance Rover is a major milestone in small rotorcraft.

NASA’s ingenuity Mars Helicopters have emerged on the surface of Mars since the first night.

Evening temperature Jezero Crater Can dive to minus 130 degrees Fahrenheit (Minus 90 degrees Celsius), It can freeze and crack unprotected electrical components and damage the on-board battery required for flight. Surviving that first night after being deployed from NASA’s Perseverance Rover belly-mounted location on April 3 is a major milestone in a four-pound (1.8 kilogram) rotorcraft. In the coming days, Ingenuity will be the first aircraft to attempt a powered and controlled flight on another planet.

MiMi Aung, Ingenuity Project Manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, said: “But now we have confirmed that the battery has the right insulation, the right heaters, and enough energy to survive the cold nights. This is a big win for the team. Ingenuity’s first flight test I’m excited to continue preparing for. “

NASA's ingenuity helicopter on Mars

NASA’s ingenious helicopter can be seen on Mars as seen from the rear hazard camera of the Perseverance Rover on April 4, 2021, on the 44th day of Mars, or in the mission sol. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech

Inventing an aircraft that is small enough to fit in a rover, light enough to fly through the thin atmosphere of Mars, but strong enough to withstand the cold of Mars has presented a significant challenge. To allow the solar array on the helicopter rotor to begin to sunbathe as soon as possible, Perseverance was instructed to leave Ingenuity shortly after deploying it.

Ingenuity remained attached to the rover’s belly until the helicopter placed its four legs on the surface of Mars, receiving power from Perseverance, which landed on the Jezero Crater on February 18. The rover acts as a communication relay between Ingenuity and the Earth. Use a series of cameras to observe the flight characteristics of a solar helicopter from “VanZyl Overlook”.

Van Gil Overlook, Mars

The place where NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover observes the ingenious Mars helicopter attempt in powered flight on Mars is called “Van Jill Overlook” after Jacob van Jill. Van Zyl was a longtime colleague, mentor, and leader of the team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. He died suddenly in August 2020, about a month after the launch of Perseverance. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech

Ingenuity’s sole mission as a tech demonstration is to conduct flight tests in the thin atmosphere of Mars. The helicopter is not equipped with scientific equipment. Within 30 days of Mars, Sol (24.6 hours on Mars day), Ingenuity will complete the test and Perseverance’s scientific exploration of Jezero Crater will begin in earnest.

“Our 30-sol test schedule is packed with exciting milestones,” said Teddy Tzanetos, Deputy Operations Leader at Ingenuity Mars Helicopter. JPL.. “Get all possible flight data within that time frame, no matter what the future.”

Month of ingenuity

On April 4, Perseverance downlinked the first image of a helicopter on the surface of Mars. Images taken by the danger avoidance camera on the left rear of the rover show the helicopter rotor blades stacked side by side (a configuration used to save space during a trip to Mars) on the surface of Mars. Shows four well-planted footpads. ..

Ingenuity Mars helicopter image

Ingenuity Mars Helicopter took this image with a color camera from under the Perseverance Rover after Rover deployed a rotorcraft on the surface of Mars. The image was taken on April 3, 2021. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech

For the next two days, Ingenuity will collect information on the performance of current thermal control and power systems in which small helicopters are self-sustaining in a Martian environment. That information will be used to fine-tune Ingenuity’s thermal control system to help survive the harsh nights of Mars throughout the flight experiment.

On April 7, the restraint device that fixed the rotor blades before the launch will be released. If the mission team achieves that milestone, some of the following solutions will include further testing of the rotor blades and the motors that drive them. There are also in-vehicle computers that are tasked with checking out inertial measurement units (electronic devices that measure body orientation and angular velocity) and autonomous helicopter flight. In addition, the team will continue to monitor the energy performance of the helicopter, including an assessment of the power of the solar array and the charge status of the aircraft’s six lithium-ion batteries.

If all went well with each of the myriad pre-flight checks, Ingenuity’s first attempt was to take off from the middle of a 33 x 33 ft (10 x 10 m) “airfield.” Obstacles – By the evening of April 11th.

Subsequent flight tests are scheduled throughout the month of ingenuity, with Perseverance cameras providing a number of high-resolution images of the historic mission.

Details of ingenuity

Ingenuity Mars Helicopter was built by JPL, which also manages this tech demonstration project at NASA headquarters. It is supported by NASA’s Science Missions, NASA Aviation Research Missions, and NASA Space Technology Missions. NASA’s Ames Research Center and Langley Research Center provided important flight performance analysis and technical assistance.

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

JPL, managed by California Institute of Technology Caltech for NASA, builds and manages the operation of Ingenuity Mars Helicopter.

NASA’s ingenious Mars helicopter itself survives the first frigid Martian night NASA’s ingenious Mars helicopter itself survives the first frigid Martian night

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