NASA Mars Helicopter Takes Flight in Milestone for Planet Exploration

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  • Bloomberg Quicktake: Now published this video item, entitled “NASA Mars Helicopter Takes Flight in Milestone for Planet Exploration” – below is their description.

    NASA conducted its first flight on another planet early Monday morning, a short hop for a small chopper named Ingenuity which demonstrated technology that could prove critical to the future of space exploration.

    The four-pound vehicle ascended to about 10 feet above the surface of the red planet for about 40 seconds, before descending back to the ground.

    The helicopter arrived on Mars along with the Perseverance rover on Feb. 18 in a dramatic, high-definition landing. As the U.S. and other nations prepare to return humans to the moon, and eventually land on Mars, using drones to closely assess the surrounding landscape will become ever-more important.

    “We now have our Wright brothers moment,” MiMi Aung, project manager for Ingenuity, said early Monday morning from a control room at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “This is just the first great flight.”

    Researchers at JPL have planned four more Ingenuity flights during the mission to demonstrate the technology’s viability in the thin Martian atmosphere, a hostile environment to craft that require air for lift (the Martian atmosphere is 100 times thinner than that of Earth).

    Indeed, flying close to the surface of Mars is the equivalent of flying at more than 87,000 feet on Earth, essentially three times the height of Mount Everest, NASA engineers said. The altitude record for a helicopter flight on earth is 41,000 feet.

    Made up mostly of carbon dioxide, the less-dense atmosphere requires blade rotation speeds of 2,400 rpm for the chopper to remain aloft—five times what’s needed on Earth. Researchers also had only an estimate of what kind of wind speed to expect, which was around 13 mph.

    Each subsequent test will be “higher risk” and up to 15 feet above the surface because “we want to stretch and understand the capability of this little vehicle,” Aung said. The longest flight will last no more than 90 seconds.

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    In This Story: NASA

    The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is an independent agency of the U.S. Federal Government responsible for the civilian space program, as well as aeronautics and space research. NASA was established in 1958, succeeding the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics.

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