NASA’s Mars helicopters soar again, go faster and travel a total of the length of an American football field on their third trip through the fresh Mars air.
Like the first two flights, the small test flight robot, called Ingenuity, perfectly executed its instructions from Earth. At 1:31 am Eastern time – 12:33 pm Mars local time – it lifts 16 feet off the ground, then flies a 328 feet round-trip before landing again. where it started.
That’s about 25 times that of the second flight flying three days ago. The helicopters reach a top speed of 4.5 miles per hour, and the flight lasts about a minute and 20 seconds.
The flight is a test of a helicopter’s navigation system, which visually monitors its position by comparing ground features recorded by the onboard camera. The further it moves, the more photos its camera has to take in order to remember the landscape below. If it flies too fast, the helicopter could lose track of its location.
“This is the first time we have seen an algorithm for cameras to run over long distances,” MiMi Aung, the helicopter project manager, said in a NASA newsletter. “You can’t do this in a test chamber.”
The dexterity, about 3 feet tall, is a $ 85 million project to demonstrate that controlled flight, like an airplane or a helicopter, is possible on Mars, where the atmosphere is on the surface. is only 1 percent of the Earth.
It is linked with Perseverance, NASA’s newest Mars expedition ship, which arrived on the red planet in February. Before Perseverance began his main mission – looking for hints of ancient life in a dry river delta – the Ingenuity team had 30 days on Mars, or about 31 Earth days, to complete the year. Test flight of helicopters.
“Today’s flight was what we had planned, but it was nothing short of amazing,” said Dave Lavery, program manager of the helicopter project. “With this flight, we are demonstrating key capabilities that will allow the addition of a dimension of space to missions on Mars in the future.”
Last Monday, Ingenuity made history as the first energy-powered plane to fly on another planet. The first flight was a short one: a simple up and down flight with a total time of 39.1 seconds above the ground. The second flight, on Thursday, went a little higher and took a short step to the side.
With the success of the first three flights, the helicopter’s engineers have more than a week to complete the last two flights, which should further boost Ingenuity’s ability. Ms. Aung, the project manager, said after her first flight last week that she expected the last flight to fly about 2,300 feet away from its starting point.
NASA said the fourth flight would take off in the next few days.
There are currently no plans to send a second helicopter to Mars. But Bob Balaram, the project’s chief engineer, said he and his colleagues had begun drafting designs for a larger Mars helicopter capable of carrying about 10 pounds of scientific equipment.