NASA’s Ingenuity Helicopter Deploys All 4 Landing Legs Down Ahead of 1st Flight Test on Mars: Mosaic

Ingenuity Helicopter Deploys All 4 Landing Legs Down Ahead of 1st Flight Test on Mars: Mosaic
All 4 landing legs down after unfurlment completed for NASA’s Mars Ingenuity helicopter on Sol 39 (March 30, 2021) hanging at attach point on the belly of the Perseverance rover. Copter is dangling about 5 in (13 cm) above Mars surface. This Sol 39 mosaic from 8 color raw images taken by Sherloc Watson camera on robot arm was stitched by Ken Kremer for Space UpClose. Shows local scene with wheel tracks, rocks and soil out to the horizon and backdropped by Jezero Crater wall some 2 mi (3 km) away from where Perseverance touched down on Feb. 18, 2021 on Mars. Credit: NASA/JPL/Ken Kremer/Space UpClose

For SpaceUpClose.com & RocketSTEM

CAPE CANAVERAL, FL – NASA’s experimental Ingenuity Mars Helicopter has just successfully deployed all four landing legs after carrying out a methodical step by step approach this past week on Mars to safely and carefully unfurl the $80 million rotorcraft this week and hanging down from the stowed attach point on the belly of the Perseverance rover – getting ready for the first test flight NET April 8.

The images confirming the unfurlment and deployment down of all four landing legs were taken by the powerful Sherloc Watson high resolution camera on the end of the rover’s 7-foot-long (2.1-meter-long) robotic arm yestersol Sol 39 (March 30) and transmitted back overnight – which I just stitched into a new Sol 39 mosaic from eight color raw images and shown as lead image above.

At this moment the diminutive 4 pound (1.8 kg) Ingenuity is dangling from Perseverance belly about 5 inches (13 cm) above the surface of the Red Planet at the ‘airfield‘ at the Jezero Crater landing site.

2 legs down and 2 legs up. First two landing legs down after intermediate unfurlment completed for NASA’s Mars Ingenuity helicopter on Sol 38 (March 29, 2021) hanging at attach point on the belly of the Perseverance rover. Copter is dangling about 5 in (13 cm) above Mars surface. This Sol 38 mosaic from 8 color raw images taken by Sherloc Watson camera on robot arm was stitched by Ken Kremer for Space UpClose. Shows local scene with wheel tracks, rocks and soil out to the horizon and backdropped by Jezero Crater wall some 2 mi (3 km) away from where Perseverance touched down on Feb. 18, 2021 on Mars. Credit: NASA/JPL/Ken Kremer/Space UpClose

The Ingenuity Mars Helicopter is a technology demonstration experiment aboard Perseverance.

The goal is to conduct a history making ‘Wright Brothers’ first flight moment with the agencies experimental craft on Mars on no earlier than April 8 -aiming  to make the first attempt at powered, controlled flight of an aircraft on another planet.

The irreversible deployment process to get the Ingenuity rotocraft safely unfurled and down onto the Martian surface from its attach point on the belly of NASA’s SUV-sized Perseverance rover begun on Sol 37, Sunday, March 28, after arrival of the robot at the ‘airfield’ from which it will take flight as soon as next month.

My series of mosaics stitched together this week from Sol 37 and 38 and earlier images taken by the Watson camera illustrate herein the step-by-step deployment sequence

The combined sequence of mosaics show what looks like the ‘Birth of a Martian Helicopter Robot’  – and its absolutely mesmerizing to look at and think about the future possibilities of flights on Mars by both robots and human explorers!

1st look at deployment of NASA’s Mars Ingenuity helicopter after unfurlment begins with release of locking mechanism on Sol 37 (March 28, 2021) at attachment point on the belly of the Perseverance rover with irreversible start of spring-loaded landing legs unfolding and opening up and lowering down onto the Martian surface at the ‘airfield’ chosen for flight tests. Legs are visible at upper left and right with two rotors in between. This Sol 37 mosaic was stitched from 8 Sherloc Watson color raw images by Ken Kremer for Space UpClose shows local scene with wheel tracks, rocks and soil out to the horizon and backdropped by Jezero Crater wall some 2 mi (3 km) away from where Perseverance touched down on Feb. 18, 2021 on Mars. Credit: NASA/JPL/Ken Kremer/Space UpClose

“We’re in the home stretch. The #MarsHelicopter has lowered all four legs and is in position to touch down on the Martian surface. Once it’s fully ready, @NASAPersevere will release it gently to the surface,” NASA JPL confirmed via tweet.

 

“Before the 4-pound (1.8-kilogram) rotorcraft can attempt its first flight, however, both it and its team must meet a series of daunting milestones,” NASA and team officials announced at a media briefing held March 23.

Those ‘daunting milestones’ have now at last begun on Sol 37 with release of the locking mechanism at the belly attach point on the belly of NASA’s Perseverance – that begins the irreversible start to the deployment with the spring-loaded unfurlment of the four landing legs.

The steps to begin the Ingenuity deployment began last week on Sol 30 (March 21, 2021) after Perseverance was commanded to eject the guitar case-shaped graphite composite debris shield cover that protected Ingenuity during landing and was  dropped flat onto the Martian surface directly underneath her and between the six wheels.

See my Sol 30 mosaic below illustrating the scene with the 1st look at NASA’s Mars Ingenuity helicopter unveiled and folded up and attached to the belly of the rover.

1st look at NASA’s Mars Ingenuity helicopter attached to the belly of the Perseverance rover unveiled after ejecting the debris shield protective cover dropped flat onto the Martian surface directly underneath her on Sol 30 (March 21, 2021. This Sol 30 belly mosaic view shows the debris on the surface and between the six wheels This mosaic was stitched from 8 Sherloc Watson color raw images by Ken Kremer for Space UpClose shows local scene with wheel tracks, rocks and soil out to the horizon and backdropped by Jezero Crater wall some 2 mi (3 km) away from where Perseverance touched down on Feb. 18, 2021 on Mars. Credit: NASA/JPL/Ken Kremer/Space UpClose

Once deployed, Ingenuity will have 30 Martian days, or sols, (31 Earth days) to conduct its test flight campaign of up to five test flights.

Overall the flight test campaign in April is currently planned to start more than a month sooner than the team was initially targeting since they found the ‘airfield’ sooner than expected.

 

After a pictorial search with the high resolution mast mounted cameras the science and engineering team located a ‘helipad’ which they commanded Perseverance to travel to and deploy Ingenuity onto for the history making test flight  campaign in the extremely thin atmosphere of Mars that is less than 1% as dense as Earths.

But the challenge is great because Mars still has significant gravity about 1/3 of Earth with little atmospheric density for lifting.

 

The airfield is about 10 meters x 10 meters (33 feet x 33-feet) in size and chosen as prime real estate for the test flight because it is smooth, flat and relatively free of obstructions like rocks which could interfere with a safe landing on the four legs

 

After completing the planned six sol deployment and unfolding and dropping Ingenuity the last 5 inches (19 cm) to Mars surface, Perseverance will drive away to a distance of about 16 feet (5 meters) and confirm that the helicopter is standing upright on 4 legs on Jezero crater floor and that both helicopter and rover are communicating via their onboard radios.

 

This milestone also initiates the 30-sol clock during which time all preflight checks and flight tests must take place, says the team.

 

The first flight targeted for NET April 8 will be the most important since it will be the first demonstration of powered flight on another world – if all goes well.

“The first flight is special. It’s by far the most important flight that we plan to do,” said Håvard Grip, Ingenuity chief pilot at the media briefing. “It will be the first powered flight by an aircraft on another planet.”

During the first test flight Ingenuity will rev up its rotors to 2,537 rpm. If all checks out well it will climb at a rate of about 3 feet per second (1 meter per second) to about 3 meters (10 feet) above the surface and hover in place for about 30 seconds while turning

Then Ingenuity will descend and touch back down on the Martian surface on its four landing legs.

Four more tests of increasing complexity will follow depending on the results and analysis by the team

NASA and the JPL team running the mission are limiting Ingenuity to only a 30 sol mission because the rover needs to move on from this technology demonstration experiment to its primary science task of astrobiology aimed at searching for signs of ancient alien microbial life and gathering soil and rock samples at Jezero crater for eventual return to Earth in a decade or so.

 

My commentary about the search for life on Mars and the deployment of the Ingenuity Helicopter was featured in a live interview on March 30 on News Nation Cable TV News Network on ‘The Donlon Report’ illustrated with my Mars mosaics

 

Ingenuity is the first Helicopter to ride to Mars and the first to be touched by Martian air.

 

The Sherloc Watson camera is located on the robotic arm hand, or turret seen in my Sol 17 mosaic below.

UpClose with the Mars Perseverance robotic arm and science instrument turret at the end. This colorized mosaic of the raised robotic arm and turret with PIXL X-ray instrument (center, white) and drill (right) was stitched from four black and while raw images taken by the front left navcam camera on Sol 17, March 8, 2021 after the team commanded the rover to extend and flex the arm for testing and check outs through multiple motions – backdropped by Jezero Crater where Perseverance touched down on Feb. 18, 2021 on Mars. Credit: NASA/JPL/Ken Kremer/Space UpClose

The solar powered Ingenuity helicopter is a technology demonstration experiment aimed at attempting the first flight on Mars.

 

It is stowed on the belly and receives its charge from the rover’s power supply.

NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover ejected the belly pan cover protecting the Sample Caching System and dropped it flat onto the Martian surface directly underneath her on March 12 and 13 (Sol 21 and 22) and captured this stunning panoramic view with the navcam camera on Sol 23, March 14, 2021 after driving away with the cover lying flat between wheel tracks. This colorized mosaic stitched from 16 left side navcam raw images by Ken Kremer for Space UpClose shows local scene from rover deck to horizon with PIXL X-ray instrument and drill (bottom left) stowed robotic arm (bottom center) with rocks and soil out to the horizon and backdropped by Jezero Crater wall some 2 mi (3 km) away where Perseverance touched down on Feb. 18, 2021 on Mars. Credit: NASA/JPL/Ken Kremer/Space UpClose

The four legged Ingenuity has a mass of about 4.0 pounds (1.8  kilograms) and stands 1.6 feet or 19 inches (0.49 meters) high. It is equipped with two counter rotating blades for lift spinning at about 2,400 rpm and two cameras.

After Ingenuity is deployed on Mars’ surface its batteries will be charged solely by the helicopter’s own solar panel. If Ingenuity survives the cold Martian nights during its preflight checkout, the team will proceed with testing.

 

My Sol 15 Perseverance rover shadow selfie mosaic was also featured at the Space.com space news website – here.

Shadow of a Martian Robot – Perseverance. This mosaic was stitched from two color raw images taken by the front left hazcam on Sol 15, March 6, 2021 after a short drive from the “Octavia E. Butler Landing” landing site where Perseverance touched down on Feb. 18, 2021 in Jezero Crater on Mars. Credit: NASA/JPL/Ken Kremer/Space UpClose

Watch our live and complete ‘Stay Curious’ with live Perseverance landing commentary Feb 18, 2021 as well as March 22 mission update and earlier programs on Mars Mania on Feb 12.

 

 

 

Watch Ken’s continuing reports about Mars 2020 Perseverance and Curiosity rovers, Artemis and NASA missions, SpaceX, Starlink, Commercial Crew and Starliner and Crew Dragon and onsite for live reporting of upcoming and recent SpaceX and ULA launches including Crew 1 & 2, Demo-2, ISS, X-37B, Solar Orbiter, NRO spysats and national security missions and more at the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news: www.kenkremer.com –www.spaceupclose.com – twitter @ken_kremer – email: ken at kenkremer.com

Dr. Kremer is a research scientist and journalist based in the KSC area, active in outreach and interviewed regularly on TV and radio about space topics.
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Ken’s photos are for sale and he is available for lectures and outreach events

Ken has created hundreds of widely published Mars rover mosaics and lectures also about NASA’s Mars rovers

Please consider supporting Ken’s work by donating at Patreon:

https://www.patreon.com/kenkremer

 

NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover ejected the belly pan cover protecting the Sample Caching System and dropped it flat onto the Martian surface directly underneath her on March 12 and 13 (Sol 21 and 22). This stunning Sol 22 belly pan view shows the protective cover after ejection onto the surface and between the six wheels before driving away on Sol 23, March 14, 2021. This mosaic was stitched from 8 Sherloc Watson color raw images by Ken Kremer for Space UpClose shows local scene with rocks and soil out to the horizon and backdropped by Jezero Crater wall some 2 mi (3 km) away from where Perseverance touched down on Feb. 18, 2021 on Mars. The rover microphone has recorded the first ever sounds of driving on Mars on a prior Sol. Credit: NASA/JPL/Ken Kremer/Space UpClose

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Ken Kremer

Watch for Ken’s continuing onsite coverage of NASA, SpaceX, ULA, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and more space and mission reports direct from Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida and Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Stay tuned here for Ken's continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news. Dr. Kremer is a research scientist and journalist based in the KSC area, active in outreach and interviewed regularly on TV and radio about space topics. Ken’s photos are for sale and he is available for lectures and outreach events.

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