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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 Socrastotle on Monday March 29 2021, @04:29AM (11 children)

    by Socrastotle (13446) on Monday March 29 2021, @04:29AM (#1130608) Journal

    What do you have in mind? I know of nothing we've discovered that would have doomed an otherwise well prepared mission. Many of the things we're learning about have more to do with long term colonization of the planet, which humans on the planet could be doing better and exponentially faster. Keep in mind that the first people on Mars will be living in the ship that brings them there, most likely for the entirety of their trip. And if they can survive in the dangers of space in that ship, they can survive in the relative utopia of Mars' surface in it.

    The prerequisites that actually exist are stuff that NASA has had 50 years to begin working on, and still hasn't started. The most obvious and critical here is retropulsive landing, similar how to SpaceX lands its boosters on Earth today. With the Rube Goldbergian machinations they continue to use to land rovers, you have extremely brittle systems that have negligible payload capacities.

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  • (Score: 1) by khallow on Monday March 29 2021, @06:31AM

    by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Monday March 29 2021, @06:31AM (#1130639) Journal

    With the Rube Goldbergian machinations they continue to use to land rovers, you have extremely brittle systems that have negligible payload capacities.

    The technology demonstration issue is a real problem here. Little of what they're doing now can translate over to a manned mission - such as airbags of the Pathfinder and Mars Exploration Rover missions and the present sky crane used by Curiosity and Perseverance. Those technologies will only be used a few times each. Any serious manned effort will have to develop from scratch landing (and many other) technologies, but they will be used dozens or more times.

  • (Score: 1, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 29 2021, @06:36AM (6 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 29 2021, @06:36AM (#1130641)

    Any mission to mars has a built in 18 month stay without resupply or ability to return. That imposes severe minimum requirements for manned operations. The biggest problem is lack of budget, due to NASA being used as a vehicle to shove money at Boeing and Lockheed Martin. The Space Shuttle, Constellation, and now SLS, have all been hideously and needlessly expensive drains on NASA's science and exploration departments over the last 40 years. In every case that expense was imposed through political machinations to the detriment of science. Deliberation is a hard requirement for anything done in space, but it becomes much more difficult when you are hamstrung by a shoestring budget.

    • (Score: 2) by Socrastotle on Monday March 29 2021, @08:56AM (2 children)

      by Socrastotle (13446) on Monday March 29 2021, @08:56AM (#1130669) Journal

      I increasingly feel like this is claiming that the biggest problem with our education system is a lack of budget. [ed.gov] If you don't get my cynicism there, check the link. We spend more on education/capita than nearly anywhere in the world. Even "poor" districts in the US tend to have greater economic resources than well to do schools in most other countries, including those having far better educational outcomes than we are. So obviously there's a problem besides money.

      And so too for NASA. How much do you think the Apollo program cost? It cost $25.4 billion in 1973 dollars. That's about $150 billion dollars inflation adjusted. And that was spent over a period of 12 years (1961-1972). That's an average of $12.5 billion per year to go from basically no knowledge of human spaceflight, whatsoever, to walking on the moon. And today NASA's budget is $23.3 billion per year. That is damn sure not a "shoe-string budget." And they have the detailed recorded knowledge of absolutely everything we learned what's now 60 years ago. I mean even if they've lost all ability to innovate, they should at least be able to clone successes of sixties NASA for far less.

      I agree with you that the SLS, and other more general forms of corruption, are complete and utter wastes of money. But at the same time, you also can't just handwave away NASA's problems because of some pork. They're nothing but a shell of the organization that achieved great things a half century ago. The same organization that put a man on the moon in the past, is now trying to get people hyped about the launch of a toy drone on Mars. It's just getting somewhat absurd.

      • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 29 2021, @12:17PM (1 child)

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 29 2021, @12:17PM (#1130693)

        That is what the procedures of the US government optomizes.

        It takes something cheap and useful then over time makes it expensive and worthless. See college degrees and healthcare.

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 29 2021, @01:14PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 29 2021, @01:14PM (#1130712)

          Fortunately that's where for-profit universities like Trump U and Liberty step in. The invisible hand reaches around and grabs the pussy.

    • (Score: 1) by khallow on Monday March 29 2021, @04:49PM (2 children)

      by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Monday March 29 2021, @04:49PM (#1130821) Journal

      Any mission to mars has a built in 18 month stay without resupply or ability to return. That imposes severe minimum requirements for manned operations.

      They're not that severe. It's just mass.

      The biggest problem is lack of budget, due to NASA being used as a vehicle to shove money at Boeing and Lockheed Martin.

      In other words, NASA gets an adequate budget, it's just flushed on bad efforts as Socrastotle noted.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 30 2021, @03:20AM (1 child)

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 30 2021, @03:20AM (#1131053)

        Mass costs money to deliver and they have payload limits to consider. SLS block 1 is expected to put 57k pounds into lunar orbit for 'only' $2 billion, and they hope to be able to launch once per year once they get production issues sorted out. That is over $35k per pound and only covers launch costs. Payload to Mars should be even less for the same money, and that one launch per year also covers lunar missions and other deep space operations. At that cadence and with a Mars launch window every 18 months then we can expect at most one Mars launch every three years. There are reasons that NASA is talking about going to Mars in the 2030's at the soonest. Frankly the 2040's is probably overly optimistic.

        For comparison: Assuming worst case pricing of $100 million per launch and limited to a single tower, for the same price as one SLS launch SpaceX should be able to launch 10 Starships, and 1 Starship tanker ten times, sending 1500 tonnes, or 3.3 million pounds, to Mars each 18 month window. That is the difference that flushing your money has on how much mass you can send.

        • (Score: 1) by khallow on Tuesday March 30 2021, @04:14AM

          by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday March 30 2021, @04:14AM (#1131067) Journal

          For comparison: Assuming worst case pricing of $100 million per launch and limited to a single tower, for the same price as one SLS launch SpaceX should be able to launch 10 Starships, and 1 Starship tanker ten times, sending 1500 tonnes, or 3.3 million pounds, to Mars each 18 month window. That is the difference that flushing your money has on how much mass you can send.

          And IMHO SpaceX could do that with a few year build up. No screwing around for another 30 years, start making it happen in say the 2024 launch window (there's a lot of build up that needs to be done to any serious Mars effort, including technology demonstrations).

  • (Score: 2) by HiThere on Monday March 29 2021, @02:16PM (2 children)

    by HiThere (866) on Monday March 29 2021, @02:16PM (#1130744) Journal

    There's a problem with the 2 year lag in supplies arriving once you know you need them.

    We don't yet have a "nearly closed ecosystem" for use in space. And it's both really slow and really expensive to send mass that far. This is one reason a Lunar base would make sense as a first step, even though it probably couldn't develop into something self-sufficient. (Well, actually it could, but it will take many more advances before it's practical.)

    FWIW, my eventual goal is mobile cities in space with "nearly closed ecosystems". Nearly closed enough that they can "live off the land". And don't think of mobile as fast. To avoid problems with meteors, etc. they will need to travel at close to the rate of the local drift, but to keep entering new areas with unused resources they'll need to travel at a slightly different speed. I'd like them to live in the Oort clouds until they decide to take off for other areas, but that will probably require controlled fusion. (Don't think James Blish, think George Zebrowski...but he put more speed on his Megalife than I think plausible.) And my answer to Fermi's paradox is that once they've lived a few decades in a space city, nobody wants to live on a planet. (But we might look for abandoned mines out in the Oort clouds.)

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    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 29 2021, @06:39PM (1 child)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 29 2021, @06:39PM (#1130883)

      A manned moon base can never be fully self-sufficient as there is no known source of chlorine, but you are correct that it is ideal both for practice and as a supply base for the materials it can provide. All airless bodies have similar issues. Mars can become self-sufficient given time but that is another major hurdle on its own.

      • (Score: 1) by khallow on Tuesday March 30 2021, @04:42AM

        by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday March 30 2021, @04:42AM (#1131073) Journal

        A manned moon base can never be fully self-sufficient as there is no known source of chlorine

        While it is presently unknown, my take is that there's probably deep crust sources of chlorine in the Moon. All that volcanism is chemically similar to volcanism on Earth (which often has a lot of chlorine and fluorine in it, such as at Iceland), and we know from the dispersion of some lava eruptions on the Moon, that at one point it did have considerable volatiles in the magma source to cause that dispersion. So it is reasonable to expect that some of these volatiles are still trapped in the Moon or chemically bonded to igneous rock.

        A stronger case can be made for hydrogen and nitrogen which both are similarly scarce on the Moon's surface, but required in far greater quantities.