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posted by janrinok on Thursday October 06 2022, @02:56AM   Printer-friendly

NASA's Mars Helicopter Snags Mysterious Foreign Object on 33rd Flight - ExtremeTech:

NASA's Ingenuity helicopter was intended as a short-term demonstration when it was approved to ride along with the Perseverance rover. However, it's gone above and beyond anyone's expectations. The first-ever flying vehicle on another world has just completed its 33rd flight on Mars. It was a lot like the previous flights, except that Ingenuity appears to have stepped in something. NASA reports a mysterious "foreign debris object" (FOD) was hooked on the helicopter's foot for part of the flight before flying off.

[...] Just after Ingenuity took off, a foreign debris object (FOD) appeared on one of its legs. The record of the flight appears to show the object flapping in the breeze before dropping off. NASA says the FOD's presence did not affect the flight, and Ingenuity landed without issue at Airfield X (NASA stopped naming the landing zones after the first one). Whatever the material was, it was not massive enough to affect the helicopter's telemetry.

The team is currently investigating what the FOD was, but it certainly didn't look like something you'd normally find on Mars. It looked like plastic or paper, judging by the way it moved. That means it either came from Ingenuity, Perseverance, or some other piece of NASA's mission hardware — there's nothing else artificial in that part of the red planet.

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  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by istartedi on Thursday October 06 2022, @04:05PM (6 children)

    by istartedi (123) on Thursday October 06 2022, @04:05PM (#1275256) Journal

    We've seen the future of Mars, and it's Mt. Everest.

    It'll be full of trash and rich guys will pay big bucks to die up there. We've got a good start on the first part, and Musk is working on the 2nd.

    Ha-ha, only serious. I think long term we'll have more than just a crazy experience on Mars for the elites; but probably not in my lifetime.

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  • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Thursday October 06 2022, @04:24PM (5 children)

    by Immerman (3985) on Thursday October 06 2022, @04:24PM (#1275262)

    Honestly, I kind of doubt the elites will have any interest in my lifetime. Even Musk has indicated he's not interested in going, except maybe eventually for a visit.

    There's two big problems:
    1) It'll probably be a long time before Mars hosts anything more than cramped research outposts devoid of virtually all of the luxuries easily purchased here. Not much to attract those basking in opulence here on Earth. Not really much of anything to offer anyone except the most dedicated planetary scientists, and practical dreamers who want to be on the ground floor of building a new civilization from raw materials on up.

    2) It'll be a long time before the trip doesn't imply months of exposure to intense radiation and probably microgravity, with all the probable health problems those entail. Add a stay of 6+ months (minimum duration before the planets are in alignment for a return flight) and more months of a return flight, and you're likely to be facing an extended grueling recovery period before you get your strength back, and a lifetime of persistent radiation-related medical problems.

    And just for good measure:
    3) The moon is very likely to offer a much cheaper, safer, and more exciting tourist experience thanks to its proximity to Earth, lower gravity, and vast economic potential providing propellant, raw materials, and industrial products to near-Earth space: Lunar regolith is about 40% oxygen and 20% a combination iron and aluminum (with the ratio changing with altitude)

    • (Score: 2) by mcgrew on Thursday October 06 2022, @05:13PM (4 children)

      by mcgrew (701) <> on Thursday October 06 2022, @05:13PM (#1275274) Homepage Journal
      • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Thursday October 06 2022, @06:03PM (3 children)

        by Immerman (3985) on Thursday October 06 2022, @06:03PM (#1275290)

        Good book as I recall (it's been decades), but in reality it's only harsh compared to Earth. Everywhere else in the solar system is likely to be worse - at least before a vast influx of wealth spent on development, which will be hard to justify someplace like Mars, that doesn't seem to offer any economically viable exports.

        In a way I'm kind of happy about that - Mars is likely the most hospitable planet for colonization, and the total lack of worthwhile exports will likely mean the early society will be built by scientists and dreamers rather than capitalists. It's been millenia since such a society really existed on Earth outside of isolated tribes, and there's likely to be some interesting new lessons that come out of it. Maybe even something to inspire the rest of us to overthrow (or at least undermine) the megacorp plutocracy that's looking increasingly likely as our future.

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 06 2022, @06:59PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 06 2022, @06:59PM (#1275295)

          Once anything is built the pirates will show up, the cycle always repeats

        • (Score: 2) by mcgrew on Tuesday October 11 2022, @05:48PM (1 child)

          by mcgrew (701) <> on Tuesday October 11 2022, @05:48PM (#1276072) Homepage Journal

          The only meaningful difference between the moon and Mars is Mars is farther and heavier, and heavier is a distinct advantage. But I agree, the plutocrats will stay away until they smell profit. That will come from the asteroids, in some of my fiction they find rocks on Ceres that can be magnetized ten times as strongly as Earth magnets (which are ten times as strong today as last century's steel magnets). In those stories, Mars is the stopping place for the asteroids.


          • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Tuesday October 11 2022, @08:07PM

            by Immerman (3985) on Tuesday October 11 2022, @08:07PM (#1276113)

            Gotta disagree. The readily available resources and advantages are quite different -

            Mars has "plentiful" and easily accessible natural water and carbon dioxide, which makes it a *much* more attractive target for farming and ecological development, and higher gravity and a surprisingly radiation-opaque atmosphere, which makes it much more colonist friendly. It's a great place to homestead, at least compared to anywhere else off Earth. But doesn't seem to have any exports to Earth with which to pay for all the necessary imports.

            I can see totaly Mars eventually making a good staging and support (and vacation) area for the asteroid belt - it passes by everything every year or so, unlike Ceres or 16Psyche which may take decades between approaches to asteroids in nearby orbits. But I suspect the asteroid mining will have to get going before Mars colonization takes off, just for economic reasons. As asteroid industrialization begins to mature, you'll have both the technology and refined resources for Mars development available closer and cheaper than from Earth, while having a market for "higher" foods, vacations, and other things Mars can provide to the Belt more easily than Earth can.

            The Moon has much more concentrated silicon, iron, aluminum, titanium, and some other metals in the regolith, along with huge amounts of readily accessible oxygen freed when refining them.(40% oxygen, 7-13% aluminum, 13-5% iron -- lowlands-highlands), and 2.3x the solar energy density. Excellent for industrial development, refueling, and environmental support applications. And its proximity to Earth, and much shallower gravity, well make it ideal for providing resources for orbital development. Especially since its lack of atmosphere and orbit around Earth means you can use a SpinLaunch or other mass-driver system to launch payloads directly into Earth orbit for under 1kWh/kg (plus inefficiencies) without *any* hideously inefficient rocket assist. In contrast, any launch from a planet requires rocket assist to circularize your orbit before crashing back to the ground. Unless you want to launch into a solar orbit, which is generally inconvenient.

            The moon also provides an excellent training ground to develop most asteroid mining and industrial technologies, with Earth conveniently close for assistance. And it masses ~85x more than the entire asteroid belt combined... so there's that. Plus, in the tropics it's naturally a nice nice, steady, comfortable ~70 degrees all day and all year... once you're at least a meter below the surface. So you don't need to be continuously fighting the cold like on Mars or the asteroid belt.

            I've got to ask - why stop your asteroids at Mars though? Unless you're crashing ice asteroids for terraforming purposes, you're talking about pushing mountains across the solar system rather than just the few percent of valuable ores they contain - that's going to get expensive fast. Much cheaper to send the mining/refinery to them, which can then cheaply hop to the next nearby asteroid once the current one is tapped out.