NASA Retargets Ingenuity 1st Flight Test to NET April 11 as Perseverance Rover Images Martian Terrain: Mosaics

NASA Retargets Ingenuity 1st Flight Test to NET April 11 as Perseverance Rover Images Martian Terrain: Mosaics
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 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

For SpaceUpClose.com & RocketSTEM

CAPE CANAVERAL, FL – NASA has slightly delayed the 1st flight test flight of the experimental Ingenuity Mars Helicopter by three days and retargeted it to NET April 11, the agency announced, after completing the methodical step by step unfolding, swing down and deployment of all four graphite composite landing legs this past week leaving the $80 million rotorcraft still hanging down from the stowed attach point on the belly of the Perseverance rover and positioned just above the Martian surface before it is dropped down.

The delay is nothing to worry about.

The science and engineering team just needs a few more days to complete testing and checkouts of the delightfully diminutive 4 pound (1.8 kg) Ingenuity copter, nicknamed ‘Ginny’ – 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.

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 11 -aiming  to make the first attempt at powered, controlled flight of an aircraft on another planet.

And Ginny has to do all that in the ultra-thin Martian atmosphere less than 1% as dense as Earth’s.

The images confirming the successful unfurlment and deployment down of all four landing legs by the NASA JPL team 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 on Sol 39 (March 30) and transmitted back overnight – which I stitched into a new Sol 39 mosaic from eight color raw images and shown as lead image above.

If all goes well with the history making first powered flight on another planet on April 11 the initial data and imagery should be transmitted and received back on Earth a day later on April 12.

“This should be quite a sight. Don’t worry, I’ll have my cameras ready,” Perseverance tweeted.

“Come fly with us. #MarsHelicopter is preparing to do something that’s never been done: controlled, powered flight on another planet. Takeoff is now slated for no earlier than April 11, with data arriving on Earth on April 12,” the NASA JPL team announced via tweet. 

Meanwhile Perseverance has been busy gathering high resolution imagery of her breathtaking surroundings nearby and  off into the distance to the stunning walls of Jezero Crater some 2 miles (3 km) away.

Check out the spectacular Jezero Crater scenery in my new mosaics of images taken by the robots mast mounted Mastcam-Z camera on Sols 36 and 38 – see below.

High resolution zoomed in detailed panoramic view of Jezero Crater wall and Martain terrain seen by NASA Perseverance rover at landing site was captured in images taken by the Mastcam-Z camera. This Sol 36 mosaic of 4 color raw images taken by Mastcam-Z right side camera on March 28, 2021 was stitched by Ken Kremer for Space UpClose. Jezero Crater wall lies 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 team must ensure that Ingenuity is operating perfectly and all charged up with its solar panels before the cord is cut and the copter must survive  utterly harsh and frigid Martian nights down to Antarctica-like temperatures of -130ºF (-90ºC).

“When will the #MarsHelicopter drop? Soon! First we need to charge it to 100%. Once it’s no longer connected to @NASAPersevere, the craft must survive surface temperatures down to -130ºF (-90ºC) on its own. Check out the chief engineer’s blog for more,” the NASA JPL team announced via tweet. 

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

Ginny is not part pf the science mission focused on astrobiology and the search for signs of past life on the Red Planet.

 

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 before it is dropped down. 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

“It’s Cold on Mars,” wrote Bob Balaram, Chief Engineer for the Mars Helicopter Project at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in a blog post today, April 2.

Here are the complete details from Bob Balaram:

“Within a few days, Ingenuity will be on the surface of Mars. Until now it has been connected to the Perseverance rover, which allowed Ingenuity to charge its battery as well as use a thermostat-controlled heater powered by the rover. This heater keeps the interior at about 45 degrees F through the bitter cold of the Martian night, where temperatures can drop to as low as -130F. That comfortably protects key components such as the battery and some of the sensitive electronics from harm at very cold temperatures.

Before Ingenuity drops the last few inches onto its airfield, Perseverance will charge up the little helicopter’s battery to a 100 percent state-of-charge. That’s a good thing, because Ingenuity has to run its own heater from its own battery after the drop. No more free power from the rover!

But there is another free source of energy on Mars: the Sun! The Sun’s energy is weaker at Mars-a little over half of what we would find here on Earth on a bright, sunny day. But it’s enough for Ingenuity’s high-tech solar panel to charge the battery. Of course, this means that the rover will drive away from Ingenuity after the drop so that we uncover the solar panel. This will occur as soon as possible after the drop.

Ingenuity can’t afford to keep the temperature of its interior at a “balmy” 45F -that takes too much precious energy from the battery. Instead, when it wakes up on the surface after being dropped, it sets its thermostat to about 5F or lower. Then it’s off to survive the first night on its own!

The Ingenuity team will be anxiously waiting to hear from the helicopter the next day. Did it make it through the night? Is the solar panel working as expected? The team will check the temperatures and the battery recharge performance over the next couple of days. If it all looks good, then it’s onto the next steps: unlocking the rotor blades, and testing out all the motors and sensors.”

High resolution zoomed in detailed panoramic view of Jezero Crater wall and Martain terrain seen by NASA Perseverance rover at landing site was captured in images taken by the Mastcam-Z camera. This Sol 38 mosaic of 3 color raw images taken by Mastcam-Z left side camera on March 30, 2021 was stitched by Ken Kremer for Space UpClose. Jezero Crater wall lies 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 ‘daunting milestones’ 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

The rover then drove away to the ‘airfield’

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

Next on Sol 37 released the locking mechanism at the belly attach point on the belly of NASA’s Perseverance – that began the irreversible start to the deployment with the spring-loaded unfurlment of the four landing legs.

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

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.

This graphic shows the general activities the team behind NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter hopes to accomplish on a given test flight on the Red Planet. The helicopter will have 31 Earth days (30 sols, or Martian days) for its test flight program. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

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.

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

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This image shows where NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter team will attempt its test flights. Helicopter engineers added the locations for the rover landing site (also known as “Octavia E. Butler Landing”), the airfield (the area where the helicopter will take off and return), and the flight zone (the area within which it will fly) on an image taken by the High Resolution Imaging Experiment (HiRISE) camera aboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
Some small rainbow-like color distortions (which do not actually appear on the terrain of Mars) are seen in this image near the landing location because of the way pre- and post-landing color images were merged. Credit: NASA/JPL

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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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