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posted by Fnord666 on Sunday March 28 2021, @07:39PM   Printer-friendly
from the First-Post-on-Mars! dept.

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!

Previously:
NASA Lays Out Plans for its First Flights on Mars
How NASA Designed a Helicopter that Could Fly Autonomously on Mars
NASA is Sending a Helicopter to Mars, but What For?


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  • (Score: 2) by takyon on Sunday March 28 2021, @08:43PM

    by takyon (881) <takyonNO@SPAMsoylentnews.org> on Sunday March 28 2021, @08:43PM (#1130428) Journal

    Curiosity was sped up considerably by giving it a degree of autonomy.

    The Mars Robot Making Decisions on Its Own [theatlantic.com]

    Curiosity selected rocks to zap. No human required. But the software update that allowed it to do so was made several years into the mission.

    Everything You Need to Know About NASA's Perseverance Rover Landing on Mars [ieee.org]

    Perhaps the most significant difference between the two rovers in software is that Perseverance is much more autonomous than Curiosity. It’ll be able to plan its own driving paths, traveling farther every day. We’ll be covering this in more detail in a separate post.

    How NASA Designed a Helicopter That Could Fly Autonomously on Mars [ieee.org]


    You can almost think of the helicopter like a traditional JPL spacecraft in some ways. It has a sequencing engine on board, and we write a set of sequences, a series of commands, and we upload that file to the helicopter and it executes those commands. We plan the guidance part of the flights on the ground in simulation as a series of waypoints, and those waypoints are the sequence of commands that we send to the guidance software. When we want the helicopter to fly, we tell it to go, and the guidance software takes over and executes taking off, traversing to the different waypoints, and then landing.

    This means the flights are pre-planned very specifically. It’s not true autonomy, in the sense that we don’t give it goals and rules and it’s not doing any on-board high-level reasoning. It’s sort of half-way autonomy. The brute force way would be a human sitting there and flying it around with joysticks, and obviously we can’t do that on Mars. But there wasn’t time in the project to develop really detailed autonomy on the helicopter, so we tell it the flight plan ahead of time, and it executes a trajectory that’s been pre-planned for it. As it’s flying, it’s autonomously trying to make sure it stays on that trajectory in the presence of wind gusts or other things that may happen in that environment. But it’s really designed to follow a trajectory that we plan on the ground before it flies.

    This isn’t necessarily an advanced autonomy proof of concept—something like telling it to “go take a picture of that rock” would be more advanced autonomy, in my view. Whereas, this is really a scripted flight, the primary goal is to prove that we can fly around on Mars successfully. There are future mission concepts that we’re working through now that would involve a bigger helicopter with much more autonomy on board that may be able to [achieve] that kind of advanced autonomy. But if you remember Mars Pathfinder, the very first rover that drove on Mars, it had a very basic mission: Drive in a circle around the base station and try to take some pictures and samples of some rocks. So, as a technology demo, we’re trying to be modest about what we try to do the first time with the helicopter, too.

    Better drones will be sent to Mars. But the best place to fly will be Titan [wikipedia.org]. It would be nice if we didn't have to wait until 2036 to see the first results though.

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