NASA’s Mars helicopter went up once more, going sooner and touring a complete distance that was in regards to the size of an American soccer area on its third journey by way of the wispy air of Mars.
Like the primary two flights, the small experimental flying robotic, named Ingenuity, completely executed its directions from Earth. At 1:31 a.m. Eastern time — 12:33 p.m. native Mars time — it lifted 16 ft off the bottom, then flew a round-trip distance of 328 ft earlier than touchdown again the place it began.
That was about 25 occasions so far as the second flight flew three days in the past. The helicopter reached a prime pace of four.5 miles per hour, and the flight lasted about one minute and 20 seconds.
The flight was a check of the helicopter’s navigation system, which visually retains observe of its location by evaluating floor options recorded by its onboard digicam. The farther it traveled, the extra photographs its digicam needed to take to recollect the panorama beneath. If it flew too quick, the helicopter may lose observe of the place it was.
“This is the first time we’ve seen the algorithm for the camera running over a long distance,” MiMi Aung, the helicopter’s challenge supervisor, mentioned in a NASA news release. “You can’t do this inside a test chamber.”
Ingenuity, about 1.6 feet tall, is an $85 million project to demonstrate that controlled flight, like an airplane or a helicopter, is feasible on Mars, where the atmosphere at the surface is just 1 percent of Earth’s.
It was tacked on to Perseverance, NASA’s latest Mars rover, which arrived on the red planet in February. Before Perseverance heads off on its main mission — to seek hints of ancient life in a dried-up river delta — the Ingenuity team has 30 Martian days, or about 31 Earth days, to complete five test flights of the helicopter.
“Today’s flight was what we planned for, and yet it was nothing short of amazing,” said Dave Lavery, the helicopter project’s program executive. “With this flight, we are demonstrating critical capabilities that will enable the addition of an aerial dimension to future Mars missions.”
Last Monday, Ingenuity made history as the first powered aircraft to fly on another planet. The first flight was a short one: a simple up-and-down that totaled 39.1 seconds off the ground. The second flight, on Thursday, went a bit higher and made a short lateral move.
With the success of the first three flights, the helicopter’s engineers have a bit more than a week to complete the final two, which will further push Ingenuity’s capabilities. Ms. Aung, the project’s manager, said after the first flight last week that she hoped the final one would travel as far as some 2,300 feet from its starting point.
The fourth flight will take off in a few days, NASA said.
There are currently no plans to put a second helicopter on Mars. But Bob Balaram, the project’s chief engineer, said he and his colleagues had begun sketching out designs for a larger Mars helicopter capable of carrying some 10 pounds of science equipment.