NASA’s Ingenuity is making headway with round-trip flights to Mars
Let me remind you that NASA’s helicopter Ingenuity was first delivered to Mars by being attached to the bottom of the Perseverance rover, which landed in the Jezero crater on February 18, 2021.
Ingenuity’s primary mission was to demonstrate technological capabilities and conduct the first flights to Mars. Soon after its first successful flights, NASA decided to expand the helicopter’s mission and use it for exploration and the rover’s maintenance purposes. The reconnaissance that Ingenuity performs may one day prove beneficial to human missions, determining the best routes for explorers and making way to hard-to-reach places.
April 19, 2021
Known in planning stages as the Mars Helicopter Scout, or simply the Mars Helicopter, Ingenuity made a startling discovery in space history, performing the first powered flight on Mars. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) team managed to broadcast the live process of receiving the first data and confirming a successful take-off and a safe landing. The flight lasted only 39.1 seconds but allowed it to rise vertically about 3 m (10 ft), hover, rotate in a planned maneuver, and finally land.
April 22, 2021
During the second flight, the Mars Helicopter Scout was given more complex tasks. It had to reach a height of 5 m (16 ft) as well as perform preliminary planned maneuvers like flying off to the side and spinning around. It took a mini-helicopter 51.9 seconds to perform all the maneuvers and afterward it headed back to the center of the airfield to land. Ingenuity also completed a few additional tasks including higher maximum altitude, longer duration, and sideways movement.
April 25, 2021
The third flight was much more difficult than the two previous ones and lasted about 80 seconds. A significant horizontal movement above the surface was included in the flight program and as a result, the drone successfully coped with its task to complete a round-trip of about 100 m (330 ft) and reach a height of 5 m (16 ft). The space helicopter showed its crucial capabilities which could open up the air dimension for future missions to Mars and far beyond its borders.
April 30, 2021
On its fourth flight, the Mars Helicopter not only completed the fourth of five originally planned flights but also set the record by flying farther and faster than ever before. However, Ingenuity was unable to take off on the first attempt due to its failure to enable flight mode, but the next day it was re-attempted and eventually succeeded. It is also worth mentioning that besides the ever more daring flights performed by Ingenuity with the priority task to study takeoff and landing capabilities, the latest technological breakthrough was made by Perseverance while manufacturing oxygen directly from the Martian atmosphere. In case you are still struggling with the answer to the question if there is oxygen on Mars, I will sort it all out for you.
Let me introduce Moxie, a small, double-shoebox-sized device designed to produce up to 10 grams of oxygen per hour directly from the planet’s thin carbon dioxide atmosphere. It managed to produce 5 grams of oxygen by heating carbon dioxide to over 1,400 degrees Fahrenheit. Five grams may not seem like much, but it is enough to last an adult for about 10 minutes of breathing. Future human missions would benefit from making their oxygen on Mars, not only for humans to breathe but for making rocket fuel.
May 7, 2021
The fifth flight to Mars was unlike all previous flights as it became a one-way trip. Ingenuity took off from the Wright Brothers Field and flew 133 m (436 ft) south, reaching a record height of 10 m (33 ft) and taking high-resolution color photos. This flight led to a new stage of research, and so scientists began to study Ingenuity’s capabilities while operating on Mars. Some examples of new studies include reconnaissance, aerial observation of areas inaccessible to the rover, and high-quality stereo images from above. Particularly these tasks and the data obtained in the course of their completion will help in the further aerial exploration on Mars and far beyond it.
May 23, 2021
The sixth flight lasted about 140 seconds and allowed scientists not only to increase the flight range but to use the capabilities of aerial photography despite possible technical failures. The experts managed to establish the wrong time in the navigation system that led to some malfunctions causing all the images to be marked with incorrect timestamps. But overall, NASA is pleased with Ingenuity’s constant progress and its performance under unforeseen circumstances. Since NASA’s beginning, Ingenuity has remained so far one of the prominent technologies of the century!