For the first time, you can hear the sound of NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter flying on Mars

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NASA’s Ingenuity Mars helicopter (left) and Perseverance rover (right).

A ghostly hum has been echoing across the plains of Mars’ Jezero Crater. It’s the sound of NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter spinning its rotor blades at unearthly speeds and lifting itself away from the Martian dust. For the first time, you can hear it yourself.

NASA’s Perseverance rover, which carried Ingenuity to Mars, has recorded video of each of the helicopter’s four flights thus far. But during the chopper’s fourth flight on April 30, Perseverance’s microphone was on. It captured the sound of otherworldly flight from 262 feet away.

The dominant sound in the video, below, is the rumble of wind blowing across the open plain. But if you turn the volume up high, you’ll hear the helicopter whir as its spinning blades lift it from the ground. The sound gets loudest when Ingenuity flies across the camera’s field of view.

“This is a very good surprise,” David Mimoun, the science lead for the Perseverance rover’s microphone, said in a press release. “We had carried out tests and simulations that told us the microphone would barely pick up the sounds of the helicopter, as the Mars atmosphere damps the sound propagation strongly. We have been lucky to register the helicopter at such a distance. This recording will be a gold mine for our understanding of the Martian atmosphere.”

Scientists had to tweak the original audio a bit in order to isolate the sound of the rotor blades – they reduced the volume of frequencies above and below the helicopter noise.

Ingenuity is about to start a new mission

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Ingenuity, photographed on Mars by the Perseverance rover on April 4, 2021.

Ingenuity’s rotor blades have to spin at more than 2,500 rotations per minute – roughly five times the speed of a passenger helicopter on Earth. That’s the only way the drone can gain enough traction in the thin Martian air, which has about 1% the density of Earth’s atmosphere. It’s the equivalent of flying at three times the height of Mount Everest.

For the flight in the video – Ingenuity’s fourth – the rotor blades lifted it 16 feet off the ground. Then it flew south for about 436 feet, snapping photos of the Martian surface along the way. It stopped, hovered, and flew back to its original landing spot. The drone reached a record speed of 3.5 meters per second.

The NASA team the data that Ingenuity’s cameras gathered to make a 3D map of the Martian terrain and pick out a new airfield for the helicopter. During its next flight, which is scheduled for Friday, Ingenuity is set to retrace its path to this new location then land there. It will be the helicopter’s first one-way flight. Before landing, the drone is set to climb a record 33 feet high.

NASA’s original plan was to abandon the helicopter after its fifth flight. But Ingenuity has proven so successful that the agency decided to give it a secondary mission. From its new airfield, Ingenuity will begin testing operations that the agency might want to conduct with future space helicopters.

That includes scouting and mapping, observing interesting features of Mars from the air, and exploring rough terrain that rovers can’t access.

“The ability to fly the helicopter out into terrain that the rover cannot possibly traverse and bring back scientific data – this is extremely important for future missions that could combine a rover with a reconnaissance helicopter,” Perseverance scientist Ken Farley said in a briefing on April 30.

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NASA’s Mars helicopter has beamed back an otherworldly collection of photos and video from its first few flights

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An artist’s concept of NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter flying through the Martian skies.

  • NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter has completed three flights over the Martian surface.
  • Although it failed to lift off the ground for its fourth flight on Thursday, Ingenuity seems to be in good shape and NASA plans to retry the flight on Friday.
  • Ingenuity made history last week when it completed the first controlled, powered flight on another planet. The two subsequent flights each pushed the helicopter higher, farther, and faster.
  • Ingenuity has been snapping pictures of the Martian surface from the air, and NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover has been capturing photos and videos of Ingenuity’s aerial adventures from a nearby overlook.
  • Below are a selection of the best images and clips so far.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Ingenuity has soared over the Martian surface three times in the last 12 days. The 4-pound, tissue-box-sized helicopter was scheduled for a fourth flight on Thursday, but it did not get off the ground.

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NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover captured this image of Ingenuity on April 29, 2021.

software issue may have prevented the helicopter’s flight computer from transitioning to flight mode, so the Ingenuity team has said it will attempt the fourth flight again on Friday.

NASA scientists have planned for the rotorcraft to attempt five flights in total, but they won’t be surprised if it crashes in the process, since they’re about to push the helicopter as far and fast as it will go in these last two flights.

“We really want to push the rotorcraft flights to the limit and really learn and get information back from that,” MiMi Aung, the project manager for Ingenuity, said in a recent briefing.

Aung’s team hopes Ingenuity can work up to flying laterally across 980 feet of Martian ground.

Even if Ingenuity lands safely from both the fourth and fifth flights, that would still be the end its epic 8-month journey.

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Ingenuity underneath the Perseverance rover.

That’s because only one week remains in Ingenuity’s 30-day flight window. After that, NASA’s Perseverance rover — which carried the helicopter to Mars — will continue on to its main mission: hunting for fossils of ancient alien microbes.

The helicopter, built by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, left Earth on July 30 inside Perseverance’s underbelly.

The two vehicles traveled 293 million miles together, landing in Mars’ Jezero Crater in February. Perseverance set Ingenuity free in early April, dropping the helicopter onto the Martian surface so that it could soak up sunlight to charge its battery.

Ingenuity started to test its carbon-fiber rotor blades on April 8.

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Ingenuity does a slow spin test of its blades on April 8, 2021.

To get the helicopter off the ground in Mars’ thin atmosphere, its rotors have to spin at a blistering 2,500 revolutions per minute. That’s five times faster than the blades of a helicopter on Earth.

The issue that prevented Ingenuity’s fourth flight on Thursday might be related to a problem first found when the helicopter attempted a full-speed test of its blades on April 9, before its initial flight.

That test failed because Ingenuity’s flight computer was unable to transition from “preflight” to “flight” mode. NASA engineers resolved the issue with a software rewrite, but they determined that the fix would only successfully transition the helicopter into flight mode 85% of the time.

The data that Ingenuity beamed back on Thursday indicated that it couldn’t get into flight mode again — so it may have hit one of the 15% of instances in which the software patch doesn’t work.

After the software fix, Ingenuity made history on April 19, when it took flight for the first time. It hovered 10 feet above the Martian surface for about 30 seconds.

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Mastcam-Z, a camera on the Perseverance rover, captured Ingenuity taking off and landing for its first flight on April 19, 2021.

Never before had a spacecraft conducted a controlled, powered flight on another planet. (Though the Soviet Union’s Vega missions did successfully fly balloons on Venus in the 1980s.)

Though 10 feet may not sound like much, hovering there is the equivalent of flying three times as high as the peak of Mount Everest, since Mars’ atmosphere has a density just 1% of that on Earth.

Ingenuity’s purpose on Mars was simply to show that rotorcraft technology could work in that kind of harsh environment. And it succeeded.

Two cameras on the bottom of Ingenuity recorded a still, black-and-white image of the Martian surface during the flight – complete with the helicopter’s shadow.

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Ingenuity snapped this photo of its shadow on the ground below as it flew on Mars for the first time, April 19, 2021.

The helicopter’s chosen airfield in the Jezero crater measures 33 by 33 feet (10 by 10 meters).

A camera on the Perseverance rover captured the flight in exquisite color.

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The Perseverance rover captured Ingenuity’s first flight on Mars, April 19, 2021.

Perseverance moved to a nearby overlook to photograph and film the event.

Footage from a camera on Perseverance’s mast revealed dust plumes from Ingenuity upon takeoff and landing.

These enhanced videos, NASA said, could help scientists better understand the Martian wind and how dust travels through Mars’ thin atmosphere.

Then on April 22, Ingenuity flew even higher – 16 feet – and moved sideways for the first time.

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The Perseverance rover captured Ingenuity in mid-air during its second flight on April 22, 2021.

It hovered for 52 seconds and reached an airspeed of 0.5 meters per second (1.1 mph).

During that second flight, Ingenuity snapped its first color image of the Martian surface.

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Ingenuity’s first aerial color image of Mars.

At the time it took this image — which shows tracks from the Perseverance rover on the ground below — Ingenuity was 17 feet in the air.

Ingenuity executed its third flight on Sunday, reaching an airspeed of about 4.5 miles per hour.

The helicopter traveled 50 meters (164 feet) north — more than half the length of a football field — before returning to its starting place. The flight lasted about 80 seconds.

Ingenuity’s third flight “was nothing short of amazing,” David Lavery, the project’s program executive, said. “With this flight, we are demonstrating critical capabilities that will enable the addition of an aerial dimension to future Mars missions.”

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NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter can be seen hovering during its third flight on April 25, 2021.

Space helicopters like Ingenuity could someday explore treacherous terrain from above, study large regions faster than a rover can, or even do reconnaissance for astronauts.

These space drones could fly “over ravines, down canyons, up mountains,” Josh Ravich, the mechanical lead for the Ingenuity team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, previously told Insider. “Even rocky terrain is fairly inaccessible to the rovers but much more easily accessed by a rotorcraft.”

The helicopter even managed to spy on Perseverance from the air during its third flight.

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NASA’s Perseverance rover is visible in the upper left corner of this image that the Ingenuity helicopter took during its third flight on Mars, April 25, 2021.

Ingenuity was flying at an altitude of 16 feet and about 280 feet from the rover when it snapped the picture.

It’s next planned journey is even more ambitious: During the 117-second flight, the rotorcraft will attempt to reach a record speed of 3.5 meters per second (7.8 mph).

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This artist’s concept shows the Ingenuity helicopter on the Martian surface.

That’s the flight that was scheduled for Thursday but postponed until Friday. NASA said the helicopter is “safe and in good health” and will reattempt its fourth flight on Friday at 10:46 a.m. ET. NASA engineers expect to receive the first data from that attempt about three hours later.

If the attempt is successful, the helicopter should climb 16 feet into the air, fly south for about 436 feet, and snap more photos of the Martian surface along the way.

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NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter just failed to lift off from the Martian surface, but it will try again on Friday

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Left: NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter on the surface of Mars, photographed by the Perseverance rover. Right: An illustration of Ingenuity flying.

NASA’s Ingenuity Mars helicopter was scheduled to embark on its most daring flight yet on Thursday. But it failed to lift off, so NASA plans to try again on Friday.

Ingenuity made history when it flew for the first time on April 19 – a 10-foot hover that marked the first controlled, powered flight ever conducted on another planet. Since then, the 4-pound drone has completed two more flights, venturing farther and flying faster each time.

Ingenuity was in good shape after its last flight, in which it traveled roughly 330 feet out and back. It was set to attempt an even more ambitious adventure on Thursday: a 117-second flight in which the little drone was supposed to reach a record speed of 3.5 meters per second. The plan was for the helicopter to climb 16 feet into the air, fly south for about 436 feet, and snap photos of the Martian surface along the way. It was then supposed to hover for more photos, turn around, and fly back to its original spot for landing.

But Ingenuity’s rotor blades didn’t lift it up at all.

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The Perseverance rover snapped this photo of Ingenuity on the Martian surface on April 29.

The culprit is probably a software issue that first showed up during a high-speed spin test ahead of the chopper’s first flight. That test failed because Ingenuity’s flight computer was unable to transition from “preflight” to “flight” mode. Within a few days, NASA engineers resolved the issue with a quick software rewrite.

But those engineers determined that their fix would successfully transition the helicopter into flight mode only 85% of the time. The data that Ingenuity beamed back on Thursday indicated that it couldn’t get into flight mode – so it may have hit one of the 15% of instances in which the software patch doesn’t work.

“Today’s delay is in line with that expectation and does not prevent future flights,” NASA said.

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The Perseverance rover captured the Ingenuity helicopter before, left, and after it spun its rotor blades.

The helicopter is “safe and in good health,” according to the agency, and it will reattempt its fourth flight on Friday at 10:46 a.m. ET. NASA engineers expect to receive the first data from that attempt about three hours later.

The Ingenuity team has just one more week to complete two flights that would push the chopper to its limits. By the fifth and final flight, Ingenuity’s controllers plan to push the helicopter as far and fast as it can go. In the process, they expect Ingenuity to crash.

“We really want to push the rotorcraft flights to the limit and really learn and get information back from that,” MiMi Aung, the project manager for Ingenuity, said in a press briefing last week.

“That information is extremely important,” she added. “This is a pathfinder. This is about, you know, finding if there any ‘unknown unknowns’ that we can’t model. And we really want to know what the limits are. So we will be pushing the limits very deliberately.”

NASA’s space-drone dreams

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An illustration shows NASA astronauts working on the surface of Mars, with an Ingenuity-like helicopter flying to the left.

Ingenuity’s flights are experimental, meant simply to test what rotorcraft technology can do on Mars. So NASA expected that some of the attempts might fail. It’s all in the interest of gathering data to inform the development of helicopter missions on other planets, which could do all kinds of science and exploration that a rover mission can’t.

“We are aware that failure is more likely in this kind of scenario, and we’re comfortable with it because of the upside potential that success has,” NASA associate administrator Thomas Zurbuchen told Insider.

Space helicopters similar to Ingenuity could someday survey difficult terrain from above, study large regions faster than a rover can, and even do reconnaissance for astronauts.

Such space drones could fly “over ravines, down canyons, up mountains,” Josh Ravich, the mechanical lead for the Ingenuity team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, told Insider. “Even rocky terrain is fairly inaccessible to the rovers but much more easily accessed by a rotorcraft.”

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An artist’s impression of the Dragonfly helicopter on Titan’s surface.

NASA already has one helicopter mission in development: A rotorcraft called Dragonfly is set to launch toward Saturn’s moon Titan in 2027. It aims to investigate whether that methane-rich world could host alien life.

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NASA’s Mars helicopter Ingenuity took its first aerial color photos of the Red Planet’s surface. Take a look.

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NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter, photographed on Mars by the Perseverance rover’s rear Hazard Camera on April 4, 2021.

  • NASA has released the first color photos that the Ingenuity helicopter took of the surface of Mars.
  • Ingenuity took three photos during its second successful flight, when it was 5.2 meters above Mars’ surface.
  • The photos show the tracks of the Perseverance Mars rover, which carried Ingenuity to the planet.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.
The first color aerial photo captured of the surface of Mars

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Ingenuity’s First Aerial Color Image of Mars

During NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter’s second successful flight on Mars, on April 22, it took color aerial photos of the planet’s surface.

Ingenuity’s built-in color camera, which contains a 4208-by-3120-pixel sensor, captured three pictures showing the dusty Martian surface.

NASA said in a press release that Ingenuity flew 17 feet, or 5.2 meters, above the surface when it took the photos.

In the photo above, a glimpse of the horizon can be seen in the upper right corner. Two of Ingenuity’s four black landing legs are on the left and right sides of the picture, NASA said.

The shadow in the bottom center is Ingenuity’s official launch zone, the “Wright Brothers Field,” the agency added.

Ingenuity’s second aerial photo of the Martian surface

Ingenuity’s Second Aerial Color Image of Mars
Ingenuity’s second aerial color image of Mars.

The photos clearly show the tracks of the six-wheel Perseverance Mars rover.

Perseverance carried Ingenuity nearly 300 million miles to Mars, and has taken photos of Ingenuity’s flights on the planet.

NASA said in the press release that the Perseverance rover wasn’t far from where the photos were taken.

Ingenuity’s third aerial photo of the surface of Mars

Ingenuity’s Third Aerial Color Image of Mars
Ingenuity’s third aerial color image of Mars

Ingenuity flew for the third time in the space of one week on on Sunday. Its first flight, on April 19, made history.

It’s second flight — when these photos were taken — was on April 22. 

The helicopter’s third flight was the fastest and furthest it had ever travelled. Ingenuity flew 50 meters north across the surface of Mars, and reached around 4.5 miles per hour. The entire flight lasted about 80 seconds.

 

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NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter flew faster and farther than ever before in its third aerial adventure over Mars

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Left: Ingenuity on the surface of Mars. Right: An illustration of Ingenuity flying.

NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter successfully executed its third flight over the surface of Mars on Sunday.

The helicopter made spaceflight history last Monday when it lifted off Mars and rose 10 feet above the planet’s surface. Never before had a spacecraft conducted a controlled, powered flight on another planet.

Then on Thursday, Ingenuity flew even higher – 16 feet – and moved sideways for the first time.

Sunday’s flight was Ingenuity’s most daring excursion to date.

The helicopter took off at 1:31 a.m. ET, or 12:33 p.m. local Mars time, NASA said.

Ingenuity rose to the same altitude as list time, reaching a maximum airspeed of 2 meters per second – about 4.5 miles per hour. (The last flight only reached an airspeed of 0.5 meters per second.) Then the helicopter traveled 50 meters (164 feet) north – almost half the length of a football field, its farthest distance yet.

“Today’s flight was what we planned for, and yet it was nothing short of amazing,” David Lavery, the project’s program executive, said in a press release. “With this flight, we are demonstrating critical capabilities that will enable the addition of an aerial dimension to future Mars missions.”

The entire flight lasted roughly 80 seconds.

“Flight three is a big step, one in which Ingenuity will begin to experience freedom in the sky,” Håvard Grip, Ingenuity’s chief pilot, wrote Friday before the excursion.

Ingenuity’s team plans to push the helicopter to its limits – even if it crashes

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The Perseverance rover captured Ingenuity in mid-air during its second flight on April 22, 2021.

Ingenuity has proven that aerial exploration is possible on other planets, but its mission is far from over. Now NASA wants to gain as much flight data as possible to inform future space-helicopter efforts.

In up to two more flights over the next two weeks, Ingenuity’s controllers plan to push the helicopter as far and fast as it will go. In the process, they expect Ingenuity will crash.

“We really want to push the rotorcraft flights to the limit and really learn and get information back from that,” MiMi Aung, the project manager for Ingenuity, said in a recent press briefing.

Ingenuity flight tracks
Ingenuity snapped the first color image of the Martian surface taken by an aerial vehicle during its second flight test on April 22, 2021.

The fifth and final venture could take Ingenuity laterally across 980 feet of Martian ground, according to NASA’s website. Aung, however, said she would “love” to push it over 2,000 feet.

By the fifth flight, the helicopter “would be unlikely to land safely, because we’ll start going into un-surveyed areas,” Aung said in a preflight briefing on April 9.

Speeding up will also challenge the chopper’s mechanics and its navigation system.

“If we do have a bad landing, that will be the end of mission,” Aung said. “The lifetime will be determined by how well it lands, pretty much.”

A looming deadline for the last two flights

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An animation of NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter exploring the Martian surface.

Ingenuity’s flights offer just a peek at the potential of future space helicopters, which could explore parts of Mars and other planets that are inaccessible to rovers. Caves, canyons, mountains, and rocky terrains could all be the domain of a new generation of space-drone explorers.

But the 4-pound helicopter – roughly the size of a tissue box – is coming up on a looming deadline.

Preparations and a delay caused by a software issue consumed the first two weeks of NASA’s 30-day window to conduct up to five flights. Less than two weeks remain before Perseverance – the rover that carried Ingenuity to Mars – has to continue on its main alien-fossil-hunting mission.

Aung said Monday that there should be enough time to squeeze in all five flights as planned.

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NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter just achieved ‘freedom in the sky’ in its third aerial adventure over Mars

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Left: Ingenuity on the surface of Mars. Right: An illustration of Ingenuity flying.

NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter successfully executed its third flight over the surface of Mars on Sunday.

The helicopter made spaceflight history last Monday when it lifted off Mars and rose 10 feet above the planet’s surface. Never before had a spacecraft conducted a controlled, powered flight on another planet.

Then on Thursday, Ingenuity flew even higher – 16 feet – and moved sideways for the first time.

Sunday’s flight promised to be the helicopter’s most daring excursion yet.

NASA hasn’t released more detail, but if the flight went according to plan, Ingenuity should have reached the same altitude as last time, but increased its maximum airspeed from 0.5 meters per second to 2 meters per second (about 4.5 miles per hour). It likely traveled 50 meters (164 feet) north, then flew back the way it came and landed gently in the copper-colored Martian dust.

The entire flight should have lasted roughly 80 seconds and covered a total distance of 100 meters (330 feet).

“Flight three is a big step, one in which Ingenuity will begin to experience freedom in the sky,” Håvard Grip, Ingenuity’s chief pilot, wrote Friday before the third excursion.

Ingenuity’s team plans to push the helicopter to its limits – even if it crashes

ingenuity second flight mars helicopter
The Perseverance rover captured Ingenuity in mid-air during its second flight on April 22, 2021.

Ingenuity has proven that aerial exploration is possible on other planets, but its mission is far from over. Now NASA wants to gain as much flight data as possible to inform future space-helicopter efforts.

In up to two more flights over the next two weeks, Ingenuity’s controllers plan to push the helicopter as far and fast as it will go. In the process, they expect Ingenuity will crash.

“We really want to push the rotorcraft flights to the limit and really learn and get information back from that,” MiMi Aung, the project manager for Ingenuity, said in a recent press briefing.

Ingenuity flight tracks
Ingenuity snapped the first color image of the Martian surface taken by an aerial vehicle during its second flight test on April 22, 2021.

The fifth and final venture could take Ingenuity laterally across 980 feet of Martian ground, according to NASA’s website. Aung, however, said she would “love” to push it over 2,000 feet.

By the fifth flight, the helicopter “would be unlikely to land safely, because we’ll start going into un-surveyed areas,” Aung said in a preflight briefing on April 9.

Speeding up will also challenge the chopper’s mechanics and its navigation system.

“If we do have a bad landing, that will be the end of mission,” Aung said. “The lifetime will be determined by how well it lands, pretty much.”

A looming deadline for the last two flights

mars helicopter ingenuity flight nasa gif
An animation of NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter exploring the Martian surface.

Ingenuity’s flights offer just a peek at the potential of future space helicopters, which could explore parts of Mars and other planets that are inaccessible to rovers. Caves, canyons, mountains, and rocky terrains could all be the domain of a new generation of space-drone explorers.

But the 4-pound helicopter – roughly the size of a tissue box – is coming up on a looming deadline.

Preparations and a delay caused by a software issue consumed the first two weeks of NASA’s 30-day window to conduct up to five flights. Less than two weeks remain before Perseverance – the rover that carried Ingenuity to Mars – has to continue on its main alien-fossil-hunting mission.

Aung said Monday that there should be enough time to squeeze in all five flights as planned.

Read the original article on Business Insider

NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter just flew sideways over the Martian surface in its second aerial adventure

ingenuity mars helicopter pre flight thumb 2x1
Left: Ingenuity on the surface of Mars. Right: An illustration of Ingenuity flying.

NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter successfully executed a second, more daring flight over the surface of Mars on Thursday morning.

Ingenuity made its aerial debut with a 10-foot hover on Monday – the first controlled, powered flight ever conducted on another planet. The helicopter flew higher and further on Thursday morning, completing its first sideways movement.

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An animation shows how Ingenuity flies laterally.

NASA hasn’t released more detail, but if the entire flight went according to plan, Ingenuity’s rotor blades should have spun furiously at 5:30 a.m. ET, when the sun was high on Mars.

As the rotors reached a speed 5 times faster than an Earth helicopter, they gave the chopper enough traction in the thin Martian atmosphere to lift about 16 feet off the ground.

Then Ingenuity likely tilted and flew sideways for about 7 feet, before stopping to hover. From there, it probably pointed its camera in different directions, producing stunning color photos that should soon beam back to NASA.

Finally, Ingenuity likely flew back the way it came and landed gently in the copper-colored Martian dust.

The data from the flight “looks good on altitude, lateral motion, all the turns and landing,” Bobby Braun, director of planetary science at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said on Twitter. “Another great flight.”

These flights offer just a peek at the potential of future space helicopters, which could explore parts of Mars and other planets that are inaccessible to rovers. Caves, canyons, mountains, and rocky terrains could all be the domain of a new generation of space-drone explorers.

The Ingenuity team will probably try to fly again within a few days. They have less than two weeks to complete up to three more increasingly daring aerial escapades. By the final flights, Ingenuity’s controllers plan to push the helicopter as far and fast as it will go. In the process, they expect Ingenuity will crash.

“We really want to push the rotorcraft flights to the limit and really learn and get information back from that,” MiMi Aung, the project manager for Ingenuity, said in a Monday press briefing.

“That information is extremely important,” she added. “This is a pathfinder. This is about, you know, finding if there any ‘unknown unknowns’ that we can’t model. And we really want to know what the limits are. So we will be pushing the limits, very deliberately.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

NASA’s Perseverance rover just turned CO2 into oxygen. The technology could help future astronauts breathe on Mars.

moxie mars perseverance rover Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment jpl
Technicians in the cleanroom at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory lower the MOXIE instrument into the belly of the Perseverance rover.

NASA sent the Perseverance rover to Mars with some bonus technology: a device that can turn carbon dioxide into oxygen, much like trees do on Earth.

The device, called the Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment (MOXIE), pulled carbon dioxide from the Martian atmosphere to produce its first oxygen on Tuesday. It’s a small amount – 5.4 grams, enough to keep an astronaut healthy for 10 minutes – but it’s proof that the technology works on the red planet.

That’s good news for the prospect of sending human explorers to Mars. Oxygen takes up a lot of room on a spacecraft, and it’s very unlikely that astronauts will be able to bring enough with them to Mars. So they’ll need to produce their own oxygen from the Martian atmosphere, both for breathing and for fueling rockets to return to Earth.

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Artist’s concept of astronauts and human habitats on Mars.

“This is a critical first step at converting carbon dioxide to oxygen on Mars,” Jim Reuter, associate administrator for NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, said in a Wednesday press release.

“MOXIE has more work to do, but the results from this technology demonstration are full of promise as we move toward our goal of one day seeing humans on Mars,” he added. “Oxygen isn’t just the stuff we breathe. Rocket propellant depends on oxygen, and future explorers will depend on producing propellant on Mars to make the trip home.”

The golden box holding the experiment is about the size of a car battery – just 1% the size of the device scientists actually hope to send to Mars.

MOXIE descendants could ultimately produce enough oxygen – roughly 25 metric tons – to launch four astronauts off the Martian surface. Producing that oxygen on-site would save a lot of space, weight, fuel, and money for the initial journey to Mars.

How MOXIE pulls oxygen out of thin air

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Perseverance’s ‘selfies’ on Mars.

This isn’t the Perseverance mission’s only technological first this week. Another experiment it carried to Mars, the Ingenuity helicopter, made history when it flew above the Martian surface for the first time on Monday.

“Tech demonstrations are a really, really critical element of our portfolio,” Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s Associate Administrator, told Insider ahead of Ingenuity’s flight. “They basically enable new tools in our toolbox.”

NASA Perseverance
Perseverance took a ‘selfie’ with the Ingenuity helicopter on April 6, 2021.

NASA expects MOXIE to extract oxygen from the Martian atmosphere at least nine more times over the next two years. This first attempt was designed to make sure the experiment was working. Future runs will test MOXIE’s abilities at different times of day and across Mars’ seasons. The device is designed to generate up to 10 grams of oxygen per hour.

At the very least, MOXIE won’t run out of fuel for these tests. Mars’ atmosphere is 96% carbon dioxide. The device uses heat and electrical currents to split those CO2 molecules into oxygen (O) and carbon monoxide (CO). Oxygen atoms don’t like to be alone for long, so they quickly combine into O2 molecules – the oxygen that we breathe.

The final product should be almost pure molecular oxygen: about 99.6% O2.

MOXIE then releases both the oxygen and the carbon monoxide back into the planet’s atmosphere. Future scaled-up devices, however, would store the oxygen in tanks for later use.

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Workers install MOXIE into the chassis of the Perseverance Mars rover at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California on March 20, 2019.

Converting carbon dioxide to oxygen isn’t the only way that future astronauts could live off the Martian land. Scientists and engineers have also proposed using on-site rocks to build structures, or even digging up Martian or lunar ice to make drinking water or rocket fuel.

Regardless of which method it chooses, NASA will have to get resourceful in order to expand human presence into deep space. MOXIE’s success puts one more technology in its toolbox.

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Stunning video of the Ingenuity helicopter lifting off, flying, and landing on Mars gave its NASA team ‘goosebumps’

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The Perseverance rover captured Ingenuity’s first flight on Mars on April 19, 2021.

NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter took flight on Mars for the first time on Monday – and the Perseverance rover captured the entire feat in sharp video.

The rover, which carried Ingenuity almost 300 million miles to Mars, perched on an overlook 211 feet away and watched the historic flight take place at 3:34 a.m. ET.

In the video below, you can see Ingenuity begin to spin its rotors, get them up to full speed (five times faster than an Earth helicopter’s rotors), then lift itself 10 feet above the Martian surface. After that, it hovers, pivots towards Perseverance, and lowers itself gently back into the dust.

The entire flight lasted about 40 seconds.

“Goosebumps. It looks just the way we had tested,” MiMi Aung, Ingenuity project manager, said as she presented the video in a post-flight press conference on Monday. “Absolutely beautiful flight. I don’t think I can ever stop watching it over and over again.”

This was the first powered, controlled flight ever conducted on another planet – NASA’s “Wright brothers moment,” as agency officials call it.

“From everything we’ve seen so far, it was a flawless flight,” Håvard Grip, the helicopter’s chief pilot, said in the briefing. “It was a gentle takeoff. At altitude it gets pushed around a little bit by the wind, but it really maintains station very well, and it stuck the landing right in the place where it was supposed to go.”

Ingenuity is a technology demonstration mission – it won’t conduct any science. However, now that NASA has shown the rotorcraft technology works, future space helicopters could explore canyons, caves, and rocky fields that are too dangerous for rovers. Mars drones could even do reconnaissance for future astronauts.

The first of up to 5 daring helicopter flights

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An artist’s concept of NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter flying through the Martian skies.

Ingenuity has achieved its main goal – to prove rotorcraft technology can work on Mars – but its mission isn’t over yet. Over the next two weeks, the space drone will attempt up to four more flights, venturing higher and farther each time. The next flight could come as soon as Thursday, according to Aung.

“We really want to push the rotorcraft to the limit and really learn and get information from that,” she said.

NASA plans to power up Perseverance’s microphone to include audio in future flight videos, though NASA engineers aren’t sure what it will sound like. If all goes well, Ingenuity’s fifth and final venture could take it up to 15 feet high over 980 feet of Martian ground.

By then, though, “it would be unlikely to land safely, because we’ll start going into unsurveyed areas,” Aung said in a preflight briefing.

“If we do have a bad landing, that will be the end of mission,” she added. “The lifetime will be determined by how well it lands, pretty much.”

Once Ingenuity’s mission is over, the Perseverance rover will continue on its own epic journey: searching for fossils of microbial alien life in the ancient river delta of Jezero Crater.

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Photos from NASA’s Perseverance rover show the Ingenuity helicopter flying on Mars for the first time

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Two images from the Perseverance rover showing the Ingenuity drone in the air and back on the surface on April 19, 2021.

NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter made spaceflight history when it lifted off from the Martian surface for the first time on Monday morning.

The Perseverance rover, which carried Ingenuity nearly 300 million miles to Mars, watched and filmed from a nearby overlook.

It saw the 4-pound space drone flew 10 feet high, hovered there for 30 seconds, and safely lowered itself back into the red Martian dust.

Shortly after receiving confirmation that Ingenuity had flown, NASA engineers downloaded the first images from Perseverance, which show the helicopter flying and landing.

Those two images are shown above.

Complete video of the flight should become available soon, possibly over the next few days. Ingenuity also beamed back its own photo from a black-and-white navigation camera on its belly, showing its shadow on the ground below.

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Ingenuity snapped this photo of its shadow on the ground below as it flew on Mars for the first time, April 19, 2021.

The helicopter’s color camera should have also recorded video footage throughout its flight, though NASA has yet to receive it.

This was the first powered, controlled flight ever conducted on another planet. Now that NASA has shown the technology works, future space helicopters could explore canyons, caves, and rocky fields that are too dangerous for rovers. Mars drones could even do reconnaissance for future astronauts.

Before the flight, Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s associate administrator for science, told Insider that Ingenuity’s success would prove that NASA “can add an aerial dimension to discovery and exploration on Mars.”

“That aerial dimension, of course, opens up aspects of science and overall exploration that, frankly, at this moment in time are only our dreams,” he said.

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