NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter nails ‘dangerous’ twelfth flight on the purple planet

NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter has successfully completed its 12th flight on Mars in what was one of its most challenging outings to date.
The flight earlier this week took place inside the South Séítah region of Jezero Crater, a location that scientists believe could contain evidence of ancient life on the red planet.
The 4-pound, 19-inch-tall helicopter began by climbing 32.8 feet (10 meters) into the air before flying a distance of about 1,476 feet (450 meters) in a trip that lasted 169 seconds — its longest to date.

A dozen for the books!🚁The #MarsHelicopter’s latest flight took us to the geological wonder that is the “South Séítah” region. It climbed 32.8 ft (10 m) for a total of 169 seconds and flew ~1,476 ft (~450 m) roundtrip to scout the area for @NASAPersevere.
— NASA JPL (@NASAJPL) August 17, 2021
During its time in the air, NASA’s first-ever Mars helicopter performed a range of maneuvers — including hovers and sidesteps — to snap two photos of a location of interest from 5 meters apart. This will allow the team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), which is overseeing the current Mars mission, to create a 3D image to help the Perseverance rover team decide if the location is worthy of closer examination.
The flight was deemed particularly risky as it was the first time for Ingenuity to fly over an uneven landscape, which the JPL team feared could have confused the helicopter’s navigation sensors.
“Ingenuity’s navigation system — which was originally intended to support a short technology demonstration — works on the assumption that it is flying across flat (or nearly flat) terrain,” the team said prior to the flight. “Deviations from this assumption can introduce errors that can lead both to temporary excursions in roll and pitch (tilting back and forth in an oscillating pattern), as well as long-term errors in the helicopter’s knowledge of its position.” In the event, the team’s fears were unfounded and so it can now start planning the helicopter’s next flight.
Ingenuity became the first aircraft to achieve controlled, powered flight on another planet when it hovered a few meters above the Martian surface in April 2021. Since then, the helicopter has been taking increasingly complex flights as the team pushes the aircraft to the limit.
The initial plan was to use the helicopter as a test device to see if a more advanced airborne vehicle based on Ingenuity’s design would be able to assist other planetary missions. But Ingenuity performed so well during its early test flights that it’s already able to provide the Perseverance rover team with aerial data as it searches for areas of interest that could unlock many of the red planet’s long-held secrets.

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NASA’s Mars rover indicators up with Google Images, kind of

It’s been six quick months since NASA’s Perseverance rover landed in spectacular fashion on the surface of Mars, with the trailblazing Ingenuity helicopter tucked under its belly.

Up to now, Perseverance has snapped more than 125,000 photos of its surroundings using its many built-in cameras, beaming the images back to Earth for closer inspection by scientists and space fans.
To celebrate the half-year milestone, Google has imagined what it would be like if Perseverance had its own Google Photos account, presenting the results in a fun video that it shared on Wednesday.
Set to Jerry Herman’s Put On Your Sunday Clothes — a song that should be familiar to WALL-E fans — the video incorporates some of Google Photos’ many features, organizing the numerous images into different categories, among them “shadow selfies,” “landscapes,” “rocks,” and, ahem, “additional rocks.” Yes, rocks feature heavily in the Perseverance rover mission.
Google’s video also includes a short clip of the extraordinarily clear footage captured during Perseverance’s descent to the Martian surface in February.
Google Photo’s search function appears in the video, too, which lets you look for images linked to keywords. Keen to raise a smile, the first search term entered is “martians,” which of course returns no results. “Water” also draws a blank, though hopefully that’ll change by the end of the mission. However, when “dunes” is entered, the page populates with endless images of sandy hills and similar land formations.
In the “people and pets” section, NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter pops up, as does Curiosity, NASA’s other functioning Mars rover that landed on the red planet in 2012.
Perseverance is continuing to explore inside Jezero Crater, an ancient lakebed that scientists believe could contain signs of past life on Mars. As part of its explorations, the rover was recently supposed to drill a sample of rock for return to Earth on a later mission, but the vehicle’s collection tube was unable to retain the material because it was too loose. The team is now looking for a new drilling location where the rock is of a type that’s more likely to stay inside the collection tube.
In the meantime, Perseverance will keep taking lots of photos of its surroundings, sending them back to Earth for everyone to enjoy.
For tips and tricks on how to get the best out of Google Photos, check out Digital Trends’ handy guide.

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