Saturday, March 25, 2023

Ingenuity was supposed to have only 5 flights. Watch its spectacular 25th flight to Mars!

When Mars Helicopter Ingenuity set off on a one-way trip to the Red Planet, its engineers had five flights planned.

That didn’t mean more flights weren’t on the cards; In fact, it is common for NASA to set spacecraft mission parameters conservatively. But late last year, NASA extended the mission indefinitely, and the smaller helicopter could now surpass its initial objectives: It completed a milestone 25 flights in the thin, vulnerable Martian atmosphere.

Indeed, it has completed 28 flights at the time of writing, but Flight 25 was a complete corker. On 8 April, when the flight took place, Ingenuity broke both distance and speed records of up to 704 meters (2,310 ft) and 5.5 meters per second (12 mph).

And it sent home images, which its operators have now stitched together into a video that shows an eye-opening robotic helicopter flying across Mars.

YouTube video

“For our record-breaking flight, Ingenuity’s downward-facing navigation camera gave us a breathtaking sense of what it would feel like gliding 33 feet above the surface of Mars at 12 mph,” said the engineer and the Ingenuity team led by Teddy Tzanetos. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

The flight duration was 161.3 seconds, but the helicopter did not start taking pictures for about a second. This is because Ingenuity uses its camera for navigation; It does not turn on until the helicopter has reached a height of about 1 m, to prevent the camera from being confused with dust at takeoff or landing.

In the video, Ingenuity reaches a height of 33 meters before turning southwest. It reaches a maximum speed of 5.5 meters per second within three seconds. First, the helicopter flies over some undulating sand, then over rocky fields, then on relatively flat and featureless ground on which Ingenuity can make a safe landing.

These flight parameters were pre-determined, and sent to Ingenuity by the helicopter’s team of pilots on the ground. Once in the air (as it is), simplicity is in itself; The time lag between Earth and Mars means that no mid-course corrections can be made.

This means that there can be an occasional crash, as we saw a year ago, when a glitch in the helicopter’s image processing pipeline caused what Ingenuity was seeing, and where it actually was in real time. Thankfully, the built-in failsafe allowed Ingenuity to land safely so that NASA engineers could issue a patch before the next flight.

Since then, it’s been a very smooth flight, even in very exotic atmospheric conditions for people here on Earth, and the tiny helicopter shows no signs of slowing down. Mars’ atmospheric volume is less than 1 percent that of Earth’s; We still marvel with every flight, that humans have managed to create something that can fly in it. Cleverly, indeed!

Nation World News Desk
Nation World News Desk
Nation World News is the fastest emerging news website covering all the latest news, world’s top stories, science news entertainment sports cricket’s latest discoveries, new technology gadgets, politics news, and more.
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