Never Say Never Again
NASA's Mars helicopter Ingenuity will take to the air again this weekend, if all goes according to plan.
Ingenuity's handlers are prepping the 4-lb. (1.8 kilograms) chopper for its seventh Martian flight, which will take place no earlier than Sunday (June 6). The plan is to send Ingenuity to a new airfield, about 350 feet (105 meters) south of its current location on the floor of Jezero Crater.
"This will mark the second time the helicopter will land at an airfield that it did not survey from the air during a previous flight," NASA officials wrote in an update on Friday (June 4). "Instead, the Ingenuity team is relying on imagery collected by the HiRISE camera aboard NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter that suggests this new base of operations is relatively flat and has few surface obstructions."
Data from the flight will be beamed home to Earth over the three days following the flight, they added.
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On Tuesday, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) hosted a press conference where it detailed the plans for the Ingenuity drone that hitched a ride to Mars attached to the underside of the Perseverance rover. The scientists and engineers behind the drone announced that they've now picked a site for what is expected to be the first powered flight on another planet. With the site settled, they're now targeting April 8 for the flight, which will be the first in a month long series of test flights to validate the technology.
[...] Håvard Grip, Ingenuity's chief pilot, said that the test flights required two distinct areas, both of which needed to be flat. The inner part, which he called the airfield, had to have very little material that could interfere with landings. That needed to be surrounded by a larger area, called the flight zone, that had to have enough material in it that the drone's onboard image-processing system could track individual features in order to assist with navigation.
Grip said the search for an appropriate area started within a few hours of Perseverance's landing. That's because knowing where Perseverance was helped Grip and his colleagues search satellite imagery of the surrounding area. Once the rover was operational, the drone provided higher-resolution imagery of potential sites.
In the end, things couldn't be much more convenient, as the rover landed on what will be the edge of the flight zone, which extends north from the landing site.
[...] If everything goes well with depositing Ingenuity and its systems check out, the earliest we could see a flight is in two weeks, on April 8. A month has been set aside for five flights, with extensive checkouts of the system between each. During this time, however, Perseverance won't be able to move on to its main science mission.
Salon has an article on Ingenuity.
In 1903, Orville and Wilbur Wright flew a plane for 12 seconds, 120 feet in the air, on what is now known as the first powered-controlled flight on Earth. Now, 118 years later, the first powered-controlled attempt at a flight on another planet is about to take place.
According to NASA, Ingenuity — the four-pound rotorcraft attached to Perseverance — is on its way to its "airfield" on Mars.
The space agency announced that its target for its first takeoff attempt will happen no earlier than April 8, 2021.
Ingenuity was designed as an experiment to see if it is possible to fly on Mars as we do here on Earth. And the process leading up to the takeoff is a very meticulous one. Consider how long it took humans to stick a powered-controlled flight on Earth; given Mars' thin atmosphere and a twenty-minute delay in communication, it is arguably more challenging on Mars.
"As with everything with the helicopter, this type of deployment has never been done before," Farah Alibay, Mars helicopter integration lead for the Perseverance rover, said in a press statement. "Once we start the deployment there is no turning back."
Every move for the next couple of weeks could make or break Ingenuity's success — starting with precisely positioning the rotorcraft in the middle of its 33-by-33-foot square airfield, which is actually a flat field on the Martian surface with no obstructions. From there, the entire deployment process from Perseverance will take about six Martian days, which are called sols. (The Martian sol is thirty-nine minutes longer than an Earth day.)
Good luck, little chopper!
On the ground! The Mars helicopter, Ingenuity, has been dropped from Perseverance onto the Martian surface.
Article at the Verge.
NASA’s Perseverance rover, which is currently roaming around Mars, has dropped off the mini helicopter Ingenuity ahead of the four-pound aircraft’s historic first flight.
Ingenuity dropped four inches from the belly of Perseverance to the surface of Mars.
[...] Now that Ingenuity is separated from Perseverance, it will need to power and heat itself. Ingenuity will draw power from the sun using its onboard solar panels, but its heater will have the tough job of keeping the helicopter warm through the freezing cold nights on Mars, where temperatures can go as low as negative 130 degrees Fahrenheit, according to Bob Balaram, Ingenuity’s chief engineer.
I have no doubt that at some point, in the future, a Martian colonialist kid will find a really neat toy.
Just The Picture.
News at CNN:
Jezero Crater, an ancient lake bed on Mars and the current site of the Perseverance rover and Ingenuity helicopter, can drop to temperatures of minus 130 degrees Fahrenheit. That's low enough to do significant damage to the helicopter's electrical and battery components.
The 4-pound helicopter finally separated on April 3 from the belly of the Perseverance rover, where it has been stashed since before the rover launched from Earth in July.
Ingenuity went through a series of movements to unfold from beneath the rover, which looked like the metamorphosis of a butterfly, before dropping the final 4 inches to the Martian surface.
[...] "This is the first time that Ingenuity has been on its own on the surface of Mars," said MiMi Aung, Ingenuity project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, in a statement. "But we now have confirmation that we have the right insulation, the right heaters, and enough energy in its battery to survive the cold night, which is a big win for the team. We're excited to continue to prepare Ingenuity for its first flight test."
When Ingenuity does fly, which could happen as soon as April 11, it will be the first powered, controlled flight on another planet. In a nod to the first such feat conducted on Earth, Ingenuity carries a swatch of fabric from the Wright brothers' plane, Flyer 1.
Ingenuity, the first rotorcraft sent to Mars, presented a challenge to the engineers who designed it for several reasons. It needed to be small enough to tuck up under the rover without endangering Perseverance's mission, which is the first to search for evidence of ancient microbial life on Mars.
April 11, or 4-11! Or later.
NASA’s Mars Rover Drops Off Ingenuity Helicopter Ahead of Historic Flight
First Flight on Mars? Ingenuity Helicopter Preps for Takeoff
NASA Lays Out Plans for its First Flights on Mars
Straight from NASA we have word of a delay in the first flight of Ingenuity on Mars.
Based on data from the Ingenuity Mars helicopter that arrived late Friday night, NASA has chosen to reschedule the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter's first experimental flight to no earlier than April 14.
During a high-speed spin test of the rotors on Friday, the command sequence controlling the test ended early due to a "watchdog" timer expiration. This occurred as it was trying to transition the flight computer from 'Pre-Flight' to 'Flight' mode. The helicopter is safe and healthy and communicated its full telemetry set to Earth.
The watchdog timer oversees the command sequence and alerts the system to any potential issues. It helps the system stay safe by not proceeding if an issue is observed and worked as planned.
The helicopter team is reviewing telemetry to diagnose and understand the issue. Following that, they will reschedule the full-speed test.
NASA has a web site devoted to Ingenuity.
During its sixth flight across the desolate Martian surface earlier this month, NASA's Ingenuity Mars Helicopter experienced a bit of a software glitch.
The tiny four pound rotorcraft "began adjusting its velocity and tilting back and forth in an oscillating pattern" according to an official update, just after covering just over 500 feet.
The event forced it to make an emergency landing some 16 feet away from the intended touchdown site.
[...] Ingenuity is capable of adjusting control inputs 500 times per second thanks to a sophisticated inertial measurement unit (IMU) that can track its accelerations and rotation rates.
In addition to this IMU, Ingenuity uses its navigation camera to see where it is going and where it currently is. Unfortunately, 54 seconds into its sixth flight, a glitch occurred in the pipeline of images taken by this navigation camera, as Grip explained.
"This glitch caused a single image to be lost, but more importantly, it resulted in all later navigation images being delivered with inaccurate timestamps," Grip wrote in the update. That means the helicopter was "operating on the basis of incorrect information about when the image was taken."
Also at c|net
Flying has never been a safe or precise art. Even when it is not on Mars! Latest from the Ingenuity saga, from NASA it's own self.
On the 91st Martian day, or sol, of NASA's Mars 2020 Perseverance rover mission, the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter performed its sixth flight. The flight was designed to expand the flight envelope and demonstrate aerial-imaging capabilities by taking stereo images of a region of interest to the west. Ingenuity was commanded to climb to an altitude of 33 feet (10 meters) before translating 492 feet (150 meters) to the southwest at a ground speed of 9 mph (4 meters per second). At that point, it was to translate 49 feet (15 meters) to the south while taking images toward the west, then fly another 164 feet (50 meters) northeast and land.
Telemetry from Flight Six shows that the first 150-meter leg of the flight went off without a hitch. But toward the end of that leg, something happened: Ingenuity began adjusting its velocity and tilting back and forth in an oscillating pattern. This behavior persisted throughout the rest of the flight. Prior to landing safely, onboard sensors indicated the rotorcraft encountered roll and pitch excursions of more than 20 degrees, large control inputs, and spikes in power consumption.
[...] Approximately 54 seconds into the flight, a glitch occurred in the pipeline of images being delivered by the navigation camera. This glitch caused a single image to be lost, but more importantly, it resulted in all later navigation images being delivered with inaccurate timestamps. From this point on, each time the navigation algorithm performed a correction based on a navigation image, it was operating on the basis of incorrect information about when the image was taken. The resulting inconsistencies significantly degraded the information used to fly the helicopter, leading to estimates being constantly "corrected" to account for phantom errors. Large oscillations ensued.
Large oscillations are better than small ones, if the truth be told. Godspeed, Ingenuity!