Nasa’s Ingenuity Mars helicopter takes flight on Red Planet

Nasa’s Ingenuity Mars helicopter takes flight on Red Planet

Telemetry analysis reports the craft as having performed: spin up, take off, flying, hovver, descent, landing, touch down and spin down.

You can hear ground control, in the video below, celebrate the news: “Altimeter data confirms that Ingenuity has performed its first flight – the first flight of a powered aircraft on another planet.” Ingenuity reached a height of 10 metres in what was a 40 second flight.

Pictured above is Ingenuity’s first black-and-white image taken from the air, showing its own shadow on the Red Planet’s surface. It was taken by the craft’s navigation camera, which autonomously tracks the ground during flight.

The Ingenuity Mars Helicopter was built by JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory), which is managing the technology demonstration project for NASA. The small, autonomous rotorcraft has travelled to Mars with NASA’s Perseverance rover.

You can follow the action in more detail online at mars.nasa.gov/technology/helicopter/#Watch-Online

The Mars 2020 Perseverance mission is part of NASA’s Moon to Mars exploration approach, which includes Artemis missions to the Moon that will help prepare for human exploration of the Red Planet.

A key objective for the mission is astrobiology, says Nasa, including the search 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 cache Martian rock and regolith (broken rock and dust).

Testing of the helicopter craft was completed in 2019.

It had been tested for its ability to function in the Red Planet’s hostile environment. Specifically, it demonstrated that it could survive in extreme cold – nights on Mars can be as cold as -130°F (-90°C). The craft had to sit on the planet’s surface waiting for the initial test flight.

Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech

See also: Picture of the Day: A Mars Helicopter called Ingenuity