NASA’s Perseverance rover touched down on Mars in February, carrying with it a suite of sensors and experiments that could help identify the remains of ancient life on the red planet. As if that wasn’t enough, Perseverance also has a flying drone. The Ingenuity helicopter is attached to the underside of the rover, but it won’t be for long. NASA just took the first step toward getting it airborne.
Ingenuity rode to Mars strapped to the underside of the rover. After landing the NASA team had to give the wheeled robot once-over, and everything has gone perfectly thus far. NASA finally paid some attention to the helicopter over the weekend. Ingenuity had a protective shield covering it, and now Perseverance has jettisoned the cover to reveal the folded-up helicopter (see above).
Perseverance will take a few days to reach the area designated by NASA as a ‘helipad” for Ingenuity — a 33-by-33-foot (10-by-10-meter) region with few obstacles. Once there, the drone will unfold and drop onto the surface — you can see what that will look like below. However, it won’t happen quite so quickly. Since NASA only gets one shot at this, it’ll take six Martian days (known as sols) to unfold and deploy the helicopter. Right before release, the team will use the electrical connection to Curiosity to charge the helicopter’s batteries one last time.
Lots of activity next week as I get ready to drop off the helicopter for its test flights. It’s tucked underneath me behind a protective debris shield, which will be the first thing to go.
Here’s my team testing some of what’s coming up: pic.twitter.com/CWwtGw87EX
— NASA's Perseverance Mars Rover (@NASAPersevere) March 20, 2021
Ingenuity came along after Perseverance was already in production, so it doesn’t carry any mission-critical instruments. This technology demonstration could open up new paths to explore the planets, though. Unlike Perseverance, which is durable and built with radiation-hardened components, Ingenuity uses off-the-shelf parts like a Snapdragon ARM chip. It’s not designed to last through even a single winter on Mars, but the helicopter does have many times the computing power of Perseverance.
Once Perseverance drops off the drone and moves to a safe distance, NASA will run the helicopter’s rotors at 2,537 rpm for one final check. The high rate of spin is necessary because Mars’ atmosphere is just one percent as dense as Earth’s. If everything looks good, Ingenuity will make a short flight, becoming the first flying machine on another planet. We won’t know until several hours later, when Perseverance beams back data to Earth, whether the flight was a success. NASA plans to fly the helicopter several times during its month-long test, and hopefully, get a look at Mars from a whole new angle.
NASA: Asteroid Could Still Hit Earth in 2068
This skyscraper-sized asteroid might still hit Earth in 2068, according to a new analysis from the University of Hawaii and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
NASA Created a Collection of Spooky Space Sounds for Halloween
NASA's latest data release turns signals from beyond Earth into spooky sounds that are sure to send a chill up your spine.
NASA Discovers Vital Organic Molecule on Titan
In the latest analysis, researchers from NASA have identified an important, highly reactive organic molecule in Titan's atmosphere. Its presence suggests the moon could support chemical processes that we usually associate with life.
How to Build a Face Mask Detector With a Jetson Nano 2GB and AlwaysAI
Nvidia continues to make AI at the edge more affordable and easier to deploy. So instead of simply running through the benchmarks to review the new Jetson Nano 2GB, I decided to tackle the DIY project of building my own face mask detector.