CM – NASA’s Mars helicopter flies for the second time


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April 22, 2021

NASA successfully conducted a second flight on Mars on Thursday with its Ingenuity mini-helicopter, a 52-second mission that climbed to a height of five meters.

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« So far, the technical telemetry we’ve received and analyzed has shown us that the flight met expectations, » said Bob Balaram, Ingenuity’s chief engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California.

 » We have two Mars flights behind us, which means there is still a lot to learn in this month of ingenuity, « Balaram said in a statement.

The US space agency made the first flight of the 1.8 kg heavy Monday Rotorcraft, the first powered flight ever on another planet.

This time Ingenuity soared to an altitude of 10 feet and landed in 39.1 seconds.

For the second flight, which lasted 51.9 seconds , Ingenuity rose to 16 feet, hovered briefly, tilted, then accelerated seven feet sideways. « The helicopter stopped, hovered in place, and turned to point its camera in different directions, » Havard said Grip, Ingenuity’s chief pilot. « Then it went back to the center of the airfield to land.

 » It sounds simple, but there are a lot of unknowns about how to fly a helicopter on Mars. « 

Data and images from the Flights are broadcast 278 million kilometers back to Earth, where they are received and processed by NASA’s ground antennas.

Ingenuity traveled to Mars, hidden under the belly of the Perseverance rover, which landed on the Red Planet on February 18 to look for signs of past microbial life.

Ingenuity’s flights are challenging because of conditions that are very different from Earth’s – especially a dilute atmosphere that is less than one percent of our own density This means that Ingenuity’s rotors, which span four feet, must spin at 2,400 revolutions per minute to achieve lift – about five times more than a helicopter on Earth.

Aufgru nd its distance from the earth it cannot be controlled by a human being. While the main maneuvers are pre-programmed, Ingenuity has to make some real-time decisions using the data from its sensors and camera.

A heater must also be operated to withstand night temperatures that drop to minus 90 degrees Celsius.

NASA is already preparing to send Dragonfly, a much larger rotorcraft, to Saturn’s icy moon Titan, where it will fly multiple sorties in search of extraterrestrial life when it gets there in 2034.

© 2021 AFP

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