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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!

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 EvilSS on Monday March 29 2021, @02:32PM (3 children)

    by EvilSS (1456) Subscriber Badge on Monday March 29 2021, @02:32PM (#1130756)
    We have very few rovers but lots and lots of people. Why don't we stop with the rovers and start sending people instead. Eventually one group will manage to not die. Probably.
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  • (Score: 1) by khallow on Monday March 29 2021, @03:20PM (2 children)

    by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Monday March 29 2021, @03:20PM (#1130774) Journal

    Why don't we stop with the rovers and start sending people instead. Eventually one group will manage to not die.

    Odds are good that it'll be the first group too that survives. We have figured out problems like this before. Rovers have their place, when they are used sensibly. But sending one or two rovers roughly every decade is not such use.

    Unmanned vehicle use in the Apollo Program is instructive. They sent 21 probe missions (7 impactors (plus two that failed on liftoff), 5 to the Moon as part of the Apollo program over an eight year period (1961-1968), 5 []orbiters [], and 6 landers []) to scout out potential landing sites. Mars has longer waits between launch windows (2 years instead of a month), but the above tempo would still be feasible.

    Any effective attempt to land people will likely have a surge of unmanned missions prior to the first person landing, just because they'll need lots of information that isn't gathered now! And a number of plans for manned missions involve working unmanned infrastructure (like a methane extraction plant or deployed power plants, solar or nuclear) before the first manned mission launches.

    Let's not make the mistake that we're doing anything concrete towards manned exploration of Mars at present. It's hobby level. Hopefully, SLS will die in the next decade without replacement, and we can refocus the world's resources better towards important goals like eventual space colonization.

    • (Score: 2) by EvilSS on Tuesday March 30 2021, @02:18PM (1 child)

      by EvilSS (1456) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday March 30 2021, @02:18PM (#1131203)
      Again though, landers are really expensive, people are a dime a dozen. Hell, you can hardly swing a dead cat and avoid hitting a few. It would be cheaper and faster to just lob humans at the rusty rock than expensive tech. Heck, we could rename the planet Marstralia and start sending prisoners. That would be a net profit!
      • (Score: 1) by khallow on Tuesday March 30 2021, @03:40PM

        by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday March 30 2021, @03:40PM (#1131238) Journal
        The joke is ruined by noting that the cost of getting people off of Earth's surface alone is pretty expensive. You've already done much of the work of a proper mission.