Published: Mon, April 19, 2021
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NASA Ingenuity completes autonomous flight on Mars

NASA Ingenuity completes autonomous flight on Mars

NASA was successful in flying Ingenuity helicopter on the surface of Mars on Monday, as per images sent back to Earth.

This first flight of Ingenuity was an autonomous remote flight, with crews on Earth controlling it just by sending commands through at the appropriate times to signal when it should begin and end its 40-second trip through the Martian 'air.' While that might seem like a really short trip, it provides huge value in terms of the data collected by the helicopter during the flight. Altimeter data relayed back to Earth via the Perseverance rover indicated Ingenuity climbed to a maximum altitude of 10 feet (3 meters) and maintained a stable hover for 30 seconds.

Ingenuity's downward facing navigation camera captured the lead image, showing the helicopter's shadow on the surface of Mars.

As seen from the the Space Flight Operations Facility at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, here's the moment when Ingenuity took off, hovered, descended, then touched back down - all to furious applause from the team.

"We've been talking for so long about our "Wright Brothers moment" on Mars, and here it is".

Nasa itself is likening the experiment to the Wright Brothers' feat 117 years ago, paying tribute to that modest but monumental first flight by having affixed a tiny swath of wing fabric from the original Wright flyer under Ingenuity's solar panel.

At the surface of Mars, the atmosphere is just 1/100th as dense as Earth's.

Ingenuity performs first flight on Mars

NASA said subsequent flight tests will be scheduled and they will be documented via high-definition cameras on the Perseverance rover.

NASA's Ingenuity helicopter is expected to rise into the Martian skies today at 03:30 am EDT, with data about its adventure arriving here on Earth a few hours later, transmitted in a livestream for all of us to watch.

The robot rotorcraft was carried to the red planet strapped to the belly of Nasa's Mars rover Perseverance, a mobile astrobiology lab that touched down on February 18 in Jezero Crater after a almost seven-month journey through space.

Ingenuity's goal, by contrast, is to demonstrate its technology works, and it won't contribute to Perseverance's science goals. Prospects for future flights rest largely on a safe, four-point touchdown the first time.

The planned flight was delayed for a week by a technical glitch during a test spin of the aircraft's rotors on April 9.

NASA originally meant to fly Ingenuity on April 11th, but delayed the flight to fix a software issue with its command sequence.

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