On Monday, NASA’s Ingenuity Mars helicopter became the first aircraft in history to perform powered, controlled flight over another planet. The Ingenuity team at the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California confirmed the flight was successful after receiving data from the helicopter via NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover at 6:46 a.m. EDT (3:46 a.m. PDT ).
“Ingenuity is the latest in a long and rich tradition of NASA projects that achieve a space exploration goal once deemed impossible,” said Steve Jurczyk, Acting NASA Administrator. “The X-15 was a pioneer for the space shuttle. Mars Pathfinder and its rover Sojourner have done the same for three generations of Martian rovers. We’re not sure exactly where the ingenuity will take us, but today’s results point to the sky – at least on Mars – maybe not the limit. “
The solar-powered helicopter first took off at 3:34 a.m. EDT (12:34 p.m. PDT) – 12:33 p.m. Local Mean Solar Time (March time) – a time that the Ingenuity team determined to be it would have optimal energy and flight conditions. Altimeter data indicates that Ingenuity reached its prescribed maximum altitude of 3 meters and maintained a stable hover for 30 seconds. It then descended, returning to the surface of Mars after recording a total of 39.1 seconds of flight. More details on the test are expected in the upcoming downlinks.
Ingenuity’s initial flight demonstration was self-contained – driven by on-board guidance, navigation and control systems running algorithms developed by the JPL team. Because data must be sent and sent back from the Red Planet hundreds of millions of miles using orbiting satellites and NASA’s Deep Space Array, Ingenuity cannot be flown with a joystick and its flight n was not observable from Earth in real time.
NASA Associate Administrator for Science Thomas Zurbuchen announced the name of the Martian airfield on which the flight took place.
“Today, 117 years after the Wright Brothers successfully completed the first flight on our planet, NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter has managed to achieve this incredible feat on another world,” Zurbuchen said. “Although these two iconic moments in aviation history are separated by time and 173 million kilometers of space, they will now be linked forever. As a tribute to Dayton’s two innovative bicycle makers, this first of many airfields on other worlds will now be. to be known as the Wright Brothers Field, in recognition of the ingenuity and innovation that continues to propel exploration. “
Ingenuity’s chief pilot, Håvard Grip, announced that the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) – the United Nations civil aviation agency – had presented to NASA and the Federal Aviation Administration the official ICAO code IGY, the call sign INGENUITY.
These details will be formally included in the next edition of the ICAO publication Designators for Aircraft Operators, Authorities and Aviation Services. The location of the flight also received the JZRO Ceremonial Location designation for Jezero Crater.
As one of NASA’s technology demonstration projects, the 19.3-inch-high (49-centimeter-high) Ingenuity Mars helicopter contains no scientific instruments inside its size fuselage. a tissue box. Instead, the 4-pound (1.8 kg) rotorcraft aims to demonstrate whether future exploration of the Red Planet could include an aerial perspective.
This first flight was full of unknowns. The Red Planet has a significantly lower gravity – a third of that of Earth – and an extremely thin atmosphere with only 1% surface pressure compared to our planet. This means that there are relatively few air molecules that Ingenuity’s two 4-foot-wide (1.2-meter-wide) rotor blades can interact with to fly. The helicopter contains unique components, as well as standard commercial parts – many of which come from the smartphone industry – which were first tested in deep space with this mission.
“The Mars Helicopter project has grown from a ‘blue sky’ feasibility study to a feasible engineering concept to achieve the first flight to another world in just over six years,” said Michael Watkins, director of JPL . “The fact that this project achieved such a historic first is a testament to the innovation and perseverance of our team here at JPL, as well as at the Langley and Ames research centers of NASA and our industrial partners. It’s a shining example of the kind of technological push that thrives at JPL and fits well with NASA’s exploration goals. “
Parked approximately 211 feet (64.3 meters) at Van Zyl Overlook during Ingenuity’s historic first flight, the Perseverance rover not only served as a communications relay between the helicopter and Earth, but also chronicled the flight operations with its cameras. Images from the rover’s Mastcam-Z and Navcam imagers will provide additional data on the helicopter’s flight.
“We’ve thought for so long about having our Wright brothers on Mars, and here it is,” MiMi Aung, Ingenuity Mars helicopter project manager at JPL told JPL. “We’ll take a moment to celebrate our success, and then take inspiration from Orville and Wilbur on what to do next. History shows they got back to work – to learn as much as possible about them. new plane – and we will be. “
Perseverance landed with ingenuity strapped to its belly on February 18. Deployed to the surface of Jezero Crater on April 3, Ingenuity is currently on the 16th Sol, or Martian Day, of its 30 sol (31 Earth Days) flight test window. Over the next three soils, the helicopter team will receive and analyze all data and images from the test and formulate a plan for the second experimental test flight, scheduled for April 22 at the earliest. If the helicopter survives the second flight test, the Ingenuity Team will consider how best to expand the flight profile.
Learn more about ingenuity
JPL, who built Ingenuity, also manages the technology demonstration project for NASA. It is supported by the science, aeronautics and space technology missions directorates of NASA. The agency’s Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, California and Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, provided significant flight performance analysis and technical support during Ingenuity’s development.
Dave Lavery is the program director for the Ingenuity Mars helicopter, MiMi Aung is the project manager and Bob Balaram is the chief engineer.
For more information on Ingenuity:
Learn more about perseverance
A key focus of Perseverance’s mission to Mars is astrobiology, including looking for signs of ancient microbial life. The rover will characterize the planet’s geology and past climate, pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet, and be the first mission to collect and hide Martian rock and regolith (shattered rocks and dust).
Subsequent NASA missions, in cooperation with ESA (European Space Agency), would send spacecraft to Mars to collect these sealed samples from the surface and return them to Earth for further analysis.
JPL built and manages the operations of the Perseverance rover. JPL is managed for NASA by Caltech in Pasadena, California.