NASA Ingenuity Chopper Completes Higher 2nd Test Flight Captures 1st Aerial Color Image of Mars

NASA Ingenuity Chopper Completes Higher 2nd Test Flight Captures 1st Aerial Color Image of Mars
This is the first color image of the Martian surface taken by an aerial vehicle while it was aloft. The Ingenuity Mars Helicopter captured this color camera image during its second successful flight test on April 22, 2021. At the time this image was taken, Ingenuity was 17 feet (5.2 meters) above the surface and pitching (moving the camera’s field of view upward) so the helicopter could begin its 7-foot (2-meter) translation to the west – away from the rover. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

For SpaceUpClose.com & RocketSTEM

CAPE CANAVERAL, FL –  NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter successfully completed its second and more ambitious test flight on Mars on April 22 of the first powered aircraft to fly beyond Earth and simultaneously also captured the first ever aerial color image of the Red Planet – a dramatic view of the rovers tracks crisscrossing the Red Planet’s ancient surface further demonstrating the paradigm shifting impact of the history making flights of the experimental Martian Chopper.

Furthermore on the heels of the success of the second flight a third even more challenging test flight is planned for this weekend flying some 100 meters.

The plan for flight 2 was to “Go Bigger” to top the accomplishment of the Mars helicopter’s historic first flight as the mission now stretches beyond the half way point of their ‘Month of Ingenuity’ and 30 Sol test window – by flying higher, faster and farther on the Red Planet just 3 Sols after flight 1.

Indeed Ingenuity did just that – it went ‘bigger’ just as the gleeful team who conceived, built and manages the rotorcraft at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) planned, and the hard work paid off handsomely!

‘The little rotorcraft that could’ seems unstoppable in the feats of science and engineering it accomplishes in the ‘Wright Brothers moment’ on Mars and spun up its two counter rotating carbon fiber rotor blades to over 2400 rpm again on Thursday.

Ingenuity’s two counterrotating rotorblades are made of a lightweight carbon fiber foam core to provide lift in the thin Mars atmosphere and measure 4 feet (1.2 meters) in diameter.

“Go big or go home! The #MarsHelicopter successfully completed its 2nd flight, capturing this image with its black-and-white navigation camera. It also reached new milestones of a higher altitude, a longer hover and lateral flying,” the NASA JPL team confirmed.

The 2nd test flight was carried out on Sol 18 of its experimental flight test window and lasted almost 52 seconds compared to the 40-second-long test flight for flight test 1.

Like the first flight the second flight was done fully autonomously, based on commands the team sent to Perseverance to relay to Ingenuity the night before.

Furthermore it flew higher to a height of 5 meters (16 ft) vs. 3 meters (10 ft) and moved laterally or sideways 2 meters (7 ft).

“Lasting 51.9 seconds, the flight added several new challenges to the first, which took place on April 19, including a higher maximum altitude, longer duration, and sideways movement,” the NASA JPL team confirmed.

The challenges of flying are incredible because the fully autonomous flight is carried out the extremely thin Martian atmosphere with few air molecules amounting to less than 1% as dense as Earth’s – approximately equivalent to 3 times the height of Mount Everest – and under frigid Antarctica-like conditions of minus 90 C (Minus 130 F).

The flight time for the 4-pound (1.8-kg) rotorcraft was chosen to optimize energy and flight conditions and maximize the odds of success.

The Ingenuity Mars Helicopter’s navigation camera captures the helicopter’s shadow on the surface of Jezero Crater during rotorcraft’s second experimental test flight on April 22, 2021. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“So far, the engineering telemetry we have received and analyzed tell us that the flight met expectations and our prior computer modeling has been accurate,” said Bob Balaram, chief engineer for the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California.

“We have two flights of Mars under our belts, which means that there is still a lot to learn during this month of Ingenuity.”

The side looking camera that took the 1st color aerial image is mounted in the helicopter’s fuselage and pointed approximately 22 degree below the horizon

Ingenuity’s high-resolution color camera contains a 4208-by-3120-pixel sensor. 

Additional imagery was again obtained by the Perseverance rover using its mast mounted Navcam and zoomable Mastcam-Z imagers.

“The initial set of data – including imagery – from the flight was received by the Ingenuity team beginning at 9:20 a.m. EDT (6:20 a.m. PDT).”

Video Caption: Perseverance’s Mastcam-Z Video of Second Flight.  NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter hovers over Jezero Crater during its second experimental flight test on April 22, 2021. The imagery was captured by the Perseverance rover’s Mastcam-Z imager.  Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU/MSSS

Like the first flight the second flight test of tiny Ingenuity took place at “Wright Brothers Field” with takeoff at 5:33 a.m. EDT (2:33 a.m. PDT), or 12:33 p.m. local Mars time.

After rising to the altitude of 5 meters it hovered briefly “and its flight control system performed a slight (5-degree) tilt, allowing some of the thrust from the counter-rotating rotors to accelerate the craft sideways for 7 feet (2 meters).”

NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover acquired this image using its left Mastcam-Z camera. Mastcam-Z is a pair of cameras located high on the rover’s mast. This is one still frame from a sequence captured by the camera while taking video. This image was acquired on Apr. 22, 2021. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU/MSSS

The 3rd test flight is scheduled for Sunday morning April 25 and will be much more ambitious pushing the bounds during an 80 second test flight

“Faster, farther, bolder. #MarsHelicopter is set for flight No. 3 on April 25. go.nasa.gov/3gArAmw” 

Flight plan: Speed: ~4.5mph Range: 330ft (100m) roundtrip Altitude: 16ft (5m)

Data expected later Sunday. Til then, peep this shot of rover tracks from the 2nd flight.”

Thus it will fly a distance of about 160 feet back and forth – a far longer distance than the team ever tested on Earth – demonstrating “freedom in the sky.”

“For the third flight, we’re targeting the same altitude, but we are going to open things up a bit too, increasing our max airspeed from 0.5 meters per second to 2 meters per second (about 4.5 mph) as we head 50 meters (164 feet) north and return to land at Wright Brothers Field. We’re planning for a total flight time of about 80 seconds and a total distance of 100 meters (330 feet),” wrote Håvard Grip, Ingenuity’s chief pilot at JPL, in an April 23 blog post..

“While that number may not seem like a lot, consider that we never moved laterally more than about two-pencil lengths when we flight-tested in the vacuum chamber here on Earth. And while the 4 meters of lateral movement in Flight Two (2 meters out and then 2 meters back) was great, providing lots of terrific data, it was still only 4 meters. As such, Flight Three is a big step, one in which Ingenuity will begin to experience freedom in the sky. “​

Perseverance has moved a safe distance away and will observe the test flight from about 211 feet (64.3 meters) away at Van Zyl Overlook– see map below.

Meanwhile enjoy my version of the Sol 46 double selfie mosaic of Ginny and Percy together

Ginny & Percy together on Mars! NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover took a selfie with the Ingenuity helicopter, seen here about 13 feet (3.9 meters) from the rover. This mosaic was taken by the WATSON camera on the rover’s robotic arm on Sol 46, April 6, 2021. Ingenuity rests between wheel track with view to Jezero Crater horizon. This Sol 46 mosaic is comprised of over 50 WATSON camera raw images and was stitched by Ken Kremer for Space UpClose. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS/Ken Kremer/Space UpClose

Ginny and Percy (nicknames for Ingenuity and Perseverance) are seen together in my new mosaic here about 13 feet (4 meters) apart in imagery taken on April 6, 2021, on Sol 46 of the mission.

Ginny & Percy together on Mars! NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover took a selfie with the Ingenuity helicopter, seen here about 13 feet (3.9 meters) from the rover. This mosaic was taken by the WATSON camera on the rover’s robotic arm on Sol 46, April 6, 2021. Ingenuity rests between wheel track with view to Jezero Crater horizon. This Sol 46 mosaic is comprised of about 40 WATSON camera raw images and was stitched by Ken Kremer for Space UpClose. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS/Ken Kremer/Space UpClose

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

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.

Watch my live post NASA SpaceX Crew 2 launch interview on The Donlan Report on News Nation Cable News about the significance of the NASA SpaceX Crew 2 launch to ISS launch, Commercial  Space, Mars rover/helicopter, the future of space travel and Elon Musk’s plan to build a city on Mars.

Watch my live interview on ‘Stay Curious’ show about NASA SpaceX Crew 2 mission and NASA Ingenuity Helicopter 1st flight – on April 29 at the American Space Museum Titusville, FL

 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:

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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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