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

NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter has efficiently accomplished its twelfth flight on Mars in what was one in every of its most difficult outings so far.

The flight earlier this week befell contained in the South Séítah area of Jezero Crater, a location that scientists consider might include proof of historic life on the purple planet.

The 4-pound, 19-inch-tall helicopter started by climbing 32.8 ft (10 meters) into the air earlier than flying a distance of about 1,476 ft (450 meters) in a visit that lasted 169 seconds — its longest so far.

A dozen for the books!🚁The #MarsHelicopter’s newest flight took us to the geological marvel that’s the “South Séítah” area. It climbed 32.8 ft (10 m) for a complete of 169 seconds and flew ~1,476 ft (~450 m) roundtrip to scout the world for @NASAPersevere.

— NASA JPL (@NASAJPL) August 17, 2021

Throughout its time within the air, NASA’s first-ever Mars helicopter carried out a spread of maneuvers — together with hovers and sidesteps — to snap two pictures of a location of curiosity from 5 meters aside. It will permit the group at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), which is overseeing the present Mars mission, to create a 3D picture to assist the Perseverance rover group resolve if the placement is worthy of nearer examination.

The flight was deemed significantly dangerous because it was the primary time for Ingenuity to fly over an uneven panorama, which the JPL group feared might have confused the helicopter’s navigation sensors.

“Ingenuity’s navigation system — which was initially supposed to help a brief know-how demonstration — works on the belief that it’s flying throughout flat (or almost flat) terrain,” the group mentioned previous to the flight. “Deviations from this assumption can introduce errors that may lead each to short-term excursions in roll and pitch (tilting forwards and backwards in an oscillating sample), in addition to long-term errors within the helicopter’s information of its place.” Within the occasion, the group’s fears had been unfounded and so it could actually now begin planning the helicopter’s subsequent flight.

Ingenuity turned the primary plane to attain managed, powered flight on one other planet when it hovered a number of meters above the Martian floor in April 2021. Since then, the helicopter has been taking more and more advanced flights because the group pushes the plane to the restrict.

The preliminary plan was to make use of the helicopter as a take a look at system to see if a extra superior airborne automobile based mostly on Ingenuity’s design would have the ability to help different planetary missions. However Ingenuity carried out so effectively throughout its early take a look at flights that it’s already capable of present the Perseverance rover group with aerial information because it searches for areas of curiosity that would unlock lots of the purple planet’s long-held secrets and techniques.

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