NASA Mars Ingenuity Chopper Aces Faster, Farther and Bolder Challenges on 3rd Test Flight

NASA Mars Ingenuity Chopper Aces Faster, Farther and Bolder Challenges on 3rd Test Flight
Perseverance’s Left Navcam Views Ingenuity During its Third Flight on Mars: NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter can be seen hovering during its third flight on April 25, 2021, as seen by the left Navigation Camera aboard NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover. The chopper flew faster and farther to a half football field in length and back. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

For SpaceUpClose.com & RocketSTEM

CAPE CANAVERAL, FL –  NASA’s Ingenuity chopper aced its 3rd test flight on Sunday, April 25, by flying faster, farther and bolder to a half a football field down range and back – thus achieving ever more challenging objectives far beyond anything demonstrated during testing on Earth while making history as humanity’s first aircraft to fly beyond Earth.

It’s simply amazing and virtually serves as a powerful demonstration that helicopters can be used effectively for aerial surveillance on Mars surface and other worlds as well – adding a potent 3rd dimension to exploration activities.

“Today’s flight was what we planned for, and yet it was nothing short of amazing,” said Dave Lavery, the project’s program executive for Ingenuity Mars Helicopter at NASA Headquarters in Washington, in a statement.

“With this flight, we are demonstrating critical capabilities that will enable the addition of an aerial dimension to future Mars missions.”

Ingenuity has now flown leaps and bounds farther vs. what’s available in the vacuum test chamber on Earth.

The Ingenuity helicopter took off at 4:31 a.m. EDT (1:31 a.m. PDT), or 12:33 p.m. local Mars time, rising 16 feet (5 meters) on Sunday – the same altitude as its second flight, the team confirmed.

And it also flew faster – speeding up from 0.5 meters per second in flight #2 to 2 meters per second in flight #3.

“Then it zipped downrange 164 feet (50 meters), just over half the length of a football field, reaching a top speed of 6.6 feet per second (2 meters per second).”

Ingenuity simultaneously also captured several more breathtaking aerial color images of the Red Planet – dramatic background views of the Martian landscape at Jezero Crater and the Perseverance 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.

 

Ingenuity also flew longer time for a total of 80 seconds.

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).

Watch the team jump for joy after the results of the 3rd test flight streamed back to Earth Sunday.

The data came back from Mars starting at 10:16 a.m. EDT (7:16 a.m. PDT).

“Ingenuity’s team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California was ecstatic to see the helicopter soaring out of view,” said NASA.

“They’re already digging through a trove of information gathered during this third flight that will inform not just additional Ingenuity flights but possible Mars rotorcraft in the future.”

Watch this NASA JPL video of the 3rd test flight compiled from imagery captured by the mast mounted zoomable Mastcam-Z camera.

Video Caption: Perseverance Rover’s Mastcam-Z Captures Ingenuity’s successful Third Flight. NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter takes off and lands in this video captured on April 25, 2021, by Mastcam-Z, an imager aboard NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover. As expected, the helicopter flew out of its field of vision while completing a flight plan that took it 164 feet (50 meters) downrange of the landing spot. Keep watching, the helicopter will return to stick the landing. Top speed for today’s flight was about 2 meters per second, or about 4.5 miles-per-hour. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The team also commanded Ingenuity to use its two onboard cameras to capture additional black and white look down navigation images and high resolution color images looking out.

The side looking color camera that took the color aerial images is mounted in the helicopter’s tissue box sized fuselage and pointed approximately 22 degrees below the horizon.

Black and White Image from Ingenuity’s Third Flight: This black and white image was taken by NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter during its third flight on April 25, 2021. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

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 Third Color Image Taken by Ingenuity: This is the third color image taken by NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter. It was snapped on the helicopter’s second flight, April 22, 2021, from an altitude of about 17 feet (5.2 meters). Tracks made by NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover can be seen as well. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

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

The flight data from Ingenuity is transmitted back to Perseverance and then relayed back to Earth via NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) across over 180 million miles of interplanetary space

Two test flights remain – #4 and #5 – during the ‘Month of Ingenuity’ in the 30 Sol long test flight campaign that NASA is giving to the Ingenuity team before the rover must move on to carry out its primary mission.

Flight #4 is expected in a few sols as the chopper team decides how best to expand the envelope and ‘dare mighty things’ to learn the most and glean the most data and insights and find the unknown unknowns for future airborne missions.

‘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 Sunday.

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).

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

Perseverance has moved a safe distance away and observes the test flights 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 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 purchasing his photos and/or donating at Patreon:

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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

 

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 (19 cm) above Mars surface before it is dropped down. 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

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Ken Kremer

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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