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Thursday, February 1, 2024

Remembering Ingenuity’s historic flights on Mars

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An image showing Ingenuity's damaged rotor blade.

A picture exhibiting Ingenuity’s broken rotor blade after its 72nd flight on Jan. 18, 2024. | Supply: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter’s time on Mars got here to an finish final week. Photos of Ingenuity’s shadow confirmed that its final flight broken a number of of its rotor blades.

Ingenuity started as a know-how demonstration. NASA hoped it will get at the least 5 flights over 30 days out of the helicopter. Ultimately, Ingenuity accomplished 72 flights over nearly three years. It flew greater than 14 instances farther than NASA initially deliberate and logged greater than two hours of complete flight time.

“Ingenuity was designed for as much as 5 flights over 30 Martian days. As we moved onto an prolonged mission for Ingenuity, we hoped to fly Ingenuity for a number of extra months, which unbelievably changed into years,” Ingenuity crew lead Joshua Anderson advised The Robotic Report. “After reaching 72 flights and surviving by a frigid Martian winter, I can confidently say that Ingenuity has far surpassed even our crew’s most optimistic desires!”

Ingenuity was the first plane to carry out powered, managed flight on one other planet. It set a distance file on its twenty fifth flight, masking 2,310 toes (704 meters), an altitude file on Flight 61 at 78.7 toes (24 meters), and a groundspeed file on Flight 62 when it traveled at 22.3 mph (10 meters per second).

“Essentially the most thrilling achievement to me is that Ingenuity’s success has opened the door for flight on different worlds. I can’t wait to see the Dragonfly mission someday fly on Titan, and future aircrafts making distinctive discoveries on Mars,” Anderson mentioned.

Whereas Ingenuity received’t be taking to the skies once more, its work isn’t executed. The Ingenuity crew will carry out ultimate assessments on its methods and obtain the remaining imagery and information from its onboard reminiscence.

“The Ingenuity crew shall be engaged on retrieving the remaining flight information onboard Ingenuity and amassing diagnostic information concerning the well being of the rotor system,” Anderson mentioned. “Because the undertaking wraps up, we’ll transfer onto different thrilling initiatives at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab.”

Ingenuity was so successful that NASA has already made plans to ship extra helicopters to Mars. It introduced in 2022 that it will be swapping out its Pattern Fetch Rovers for 2 drones for the Mars Pattern Return marketing campaign. In the course of the marketing campaign, two Ingenuity-like helicopters will retrieve samples from Perseverance whether it is unable to journey to the lander.

NASA will equip every helicopter with mobility wheels on its touchdown legs and one robotic arm. The helicopters will use their robotic arms to retrieve samples from Perseverance and transport them again to the lander. Ultimately, NASA will return these samples to Earth to check them.

To study extra about Ingenuity’s achievements on Mars, take a look at the timeline beneath.

April 3, 2021: Ingenuity touches down on Mars
After reaching Mars on the Perseverance Rove’s stomach practically one month earlier, Ingenuity touched down on Mars on April 3, 2021. The helicopter weighs simply 4 lbs. (1.8 kg) and price $80 million to construct. Whereas connected to Perseverance, Ingenuity fed off the rover’s nuclear-powered system to cost itself and keep heat. After separating from Perseverance, Ingenuity drew energy from the solar by way of its photo voltaic panels. Ingenuity used a built-in heater to outlive the freezing chilly nights on Mars, the place temperatures can go as little as -130 levels Fahrenheit.

April 19, 2021: Ingenuity completes first flight
Ingenuity made historical past when it accomplished the primary powered, managed flight on one other planet. At 3:34 AM EDT on April 19, 2021, Ingenuity climbed to its prescribed most altitude of 10 toes (3 meters). It hovered within the air for 30 seconds earlier than descending again to the floor of Mars. It was within the air for a complete of 39.1 seconds.

Ingenuity’s preliminary flight demonstration was autonomous. It was piloted by onboard steering, navigation, and management methods operating algorithms. You may relive the primary flight by watching the video beneath.

Could 7, 2021: Tech demo part ends
Ingenuity accomplished its fifth flight, and first one-way flight, on Could 7, 2021 to finish its know-how demonstration part. After the flight, Ingenuity grew to become an operations demonstration targeted on investigating the helicopter’s limitations.

July 24, 2021: Ingenuity completes first scouting flight
As soon as Ingenuity completed its know-how demonstration part, NASA was ready to make use of it to scout for the Perseverance Rover. This let the Perseverance crew be in two locations at one time.

April 8, 2022: Ingenuity units flight distance file
On its twenty fifth flight on Mars, Ingenuity set a brand new flight distance file. On April 8, 2022, Ingenuity lined a distance of two,310 toes (704 meters) at a velocity of 12 MPH (5.5 meters per second). This was its longest and quickest flight on the planet on the time.

April 19, 2022: Recognizing Perseverance’s touchdown {hardware}
Ingenuity on April 19, 2022 noticed the parachute and cone-shaped backshell from Perseverance’s descent. The 70.5-foot-wide parachute helped the rover land on Mars after making its means by the Martian environment at practically 12,500 MPH. The rover hit the floor of Mars at 78 MPH, with safety from its backshell. Perseverance had beforehand imaged the particles, however NASA mentioned Ingenuity’s photos supplied extra element.

perseverance debris

Particles from Perseverance’s touchdown captured by Ingenuity from an altitude of 26 toes. | Supply: NASA/JPL

“Perseverance had the best-documented Mars touchdown in historical past, with cameras exhibiting every thing from parachute inflation to landing,” Ian Clark, former Perseverance methods engineer and now Mars Pattern Return ascent part lead, mentioned. “However Ingenuity’s photos provide a distinct vantage level. They both reinforce that our methods labored as we expect they labored or present even one dataset of engineering info we are able to use for Mars Pattern Return planning, will probably be superb. And if not, the photographs are nonetheless phenomenal and galvanizing.”

April 13, 2023: Ingenuity completes fiftieth flight
Ingenuity flew greater than 1,057.2 toes (322.2 meters) in 145.7 seconds throughout its fiftieth flight. It landed close to the 0.5-mile-wide Belva Crater on Mars.

October 5, 2023: Ingenuity units altitude file
Ingenuity hit its highest altitude ever throughout its 61st flight. It flew to an altitude of 78.7 toes (24 meters) to take a look at Martian wind patterns.

October 12, 2023: Ingenuity units land velocity file
Simply days after setting its altitude file, Ingenuity set a floor velocity file. Throughout Flight 62, it traveled 22.3 MPH (10 meters per second) because it scouted for the Perseverance Rover.

“The info shall be extraordinarily helpful in fine-tuning our aero-mechanical fashions of how rotorcraft behave on Mars,” mentioned Travis Brown, Ingenuity’s chief engineer at JPL. “On Earth, such testing is often carried out within the first few flights. However that’s not the place we’re flying. You need to be slightly extra cautious if you’re working that distant from the closest restore store, since you don’t get any do-overs.”

January 18, 2024: Ingenuity’s ultimate flight
Ingenuity’s 72nd and ultimate flight occurred on January 18, 2024. NASA designed the flight to be a fast pop-up vertical flight to check the helicopter’s methods after an unplanned touchdown on its earlier flight. Ingenuity climbed to the deliberate altitude, however bumped into hassle when coming down.

January 25, 2024: NASA retires Ingenuity
Photos of Ingenuity’s shadow confirmed injury to at the least considered one of its rotors. NASA mentioned the helicopter can be unable to fly once more after nearly three years on Mars.

“The historic journey of Ingenuity, the primary plane on one other planet, has come to finish,” mentioned NASA Administrator Invoice Nelson. “That exceptional helicopter flew increased and farther than we ever imagined and helped NASA do what we do finest – make the inconceivable, attainable. By missions like Ingenuity, NASA is paving the best way for future flight in our photo voltaic system and smarter, safer human exploration to Mars and past.”

“At NASA JPL, innovation is on the coronary heart of what we do,” acknowledged Laurie Leshin, director of NASA JPL. “Ingenuity is an exemplar of the best way we push the boundaries of what’s attainable day by day. I’m extremely happy with our crew behind this historic technological achievement and wanting to see what they’ll invent subsequent.”

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