Written by 9:55 am News • Views: 1

Wright Brothers Moment to NASA Mars Helicopter Flight Test Promises

ANGELES (Reuters)- NASA hopes to score a 21st-century Wright Brothers moment on Monday as it tries to send a miniature helicopter buzzing over Mars’ surface in what will be the first powered, operated aircraft flight on another world.

By traditional metrics, landmark science and technology accomplishments may appear modest. In 1903, the first powered flight of the Wright Brothers in the motor-driven world, near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, covered just 120 feet (37 metres) in 12 seconds.

NASA: Mars helicopter flight test promises Wright Brothers moment for NASA |  Deccan Herald

There is also a modest debut for NASA’s twin-rotor, solar-powered helicopter Ingenuity.

If everything goes to plan, the 4-pound (1.8-kg) whirligig will slowly climb straight to an altitude of 10 feet (3 metres) above the Martian surface, hover in position for 30 seconds, then rotate to a gentle landing on all four legs.

Although mere metrics can seem less than optimistic, the interplanetary test flight’s “airfield” is 173 million miles from Earth on the floor of a large Martian basin called Jezero Crater. Success is dependent on the ability to execute flight instructions using an autonomous pilot and navigation device.

“The moment our team was waiting for is almost here,” project manager MiMi Aung said at a recent briefing at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) near Los Angeles.

NASA compares the experiment to the feat of the Wright Brothers 117 years ago, paying homage to that modest but monumental first flight by affixing a small swath of wing fabric from the original Wright flyer under Ingenuity’s solar panel.

The robot rotorcraft was transported to the red planet, strapped to the belly of NASA’s Mars rover Perseverance, a mobile astrobiology lab that reached Jezero Crater on Feb. 18 after nearly seven-month space travel.

While on Monday (0730 GMT Monday), Ingenuity’s flight test is scheduled to begin around 3:30 a.m. Eastern Time, data confirming its outcome is not expected to enter JPL’s mission control until around 6:15 a.m. ET on Monday.

Mars helicopter flight test promises Wright Brothers moment for Nasa,  United States News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

NASA also expects to obtain photos and video of the flight that mission engineers intend to capture using helicopter-mounted cameras and the Perseverance rover, which will be parked 250 feet (76 meters) away from Ingenuity’s flight zone.

If the test succeeds, Ingenuity will perform several extra, longer flights in the weeks ahead, but it will need to pause from four to five days to recharge its batteries. First time, prospects for future flights depend largely on a healthy, four-point touchdown.

“It doesn’t have a self-righting device, so if we have a bad landing, the mission will end,” Aung said. An unexpectedly strong wind is one possible hazard that could ruin the trip.

NASA hopes Ingenuity — a technology demonstration apart from Perseverance’s primary mission to look for evidence of ancient microorganisms — paves the way for Mars aerial surveillance and other solar system destinations, such as Venus or Saturn’s Moon Titan.

Although Mars has much less gravity to conquer than Earth, its atmosphere is only 1% thick, posing a special challenge for aerodynamic lift. To compensate, engineers fitted Ingenuity with larger (4-feet-long) rotor blades and spin faster than an aircraft of its size would require on Earth.

design was successfully tested in JPL-built vacuum chambers to replicate Martian conditions, but it remains to be seen if Ingenuity will fly on the red planet.

The tiny, lightweight aircraft has already passed an early critical test by demonstrating that it can withstand freezing temperatures at night, with nighttime temperatures as low as 130 degrees below zero Fahrenheit (minus 90 degrees Celsius), using only solar power to properly heat up internal components.

During a test spin of aircraft rotors on April 9, a technical glitch postponed the scheduled flight for a week. NASA said the matter has since been resolved.

 NASA | Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter @njtimesofficial. To get latest updates

(Visited 1 times, 1 visits today)