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Mars Helicopter Ingenuity: The first flight was a success

Mars Helicopter Ingenuity: The first flight was a success

This is one of his most famous quotes: “Go to the sofa!” (“By helicopter”), presented with a dense Austrian accent. In the science fiction film “Predator” from 1987, Arnold Schwarzenegger as Major Allen “Dutch” shapherd challenges a woman named Anna in the Central American jungle to escape from a vicious extraterrestrial being.

Nearly three-and-a-half decades later, Schwarzenegger repeated the sentence over the weekend. But this time it’s about a helicopter flight, which is in the true sense of the word extraterrestrial – because it takes place outside of Earth. In a video, the actor and former governor of California expressed his interest in the Mina helicopter, with which NASA wants to explore Mars.

The first flight from “Ingenuity” on Monday, the English for “Ingenuity” confirmed that it really worked. This is the first time a man-made helicopter has taken off from an alien celestial body. At 12.50 pm Central European time, the US space agency NASA announced the successful flight of the Jessero crater on Mars. Mimi Ang, project manager in charge of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, and her crew can be seen cheering in a live stream. Also shown was a photo showing the shadow of a helicopter flying over the surface of Mars.

The fully automatic maneuver had already taken place three hours earlier. Information about success and failure does not reach the earth right now. It was in second place due to the signal transmission time between our planet and Mars, which was ten minutes. Instead, the helicopter sent its data to a nearby rover “diligently”, with “intelligence” in its stomach coming to Mars.

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The research mobile observed the aircraft from a distance of about 70 meters and photographed it. In order to send the data to Earth, he first needed a connection with the “Mars Reassessment Orbiter”, which accepted the mission. It was done for the delay.

As drawn by Leonardo da Vinci

First information shows: The plane weighed 1.8 kilograms on Earth and was in the air for about 30 seconds. The maximum height is three meters. The most important part of the plane landed as the mini helicopter hit straight down. There was no way to straighten the plane when it crashed.

With its four slender legs and many rotors, the Innovation looks like the Renaissance artist Leonardo da Vinci painted the plane. But the design has its reasons: a helicopter that receives its power from solar cells should not be heavy. However, the modules provide very little power – so the batteries need to be recharged for several days after a flight.

The atmosphere of Mars is also very thin compared to Earth, with a density of less than one percent. It is true that the attraction to the Red Planet is considerably less than it is here. Still: To carry it all, the 1.2-meter-long carbon fiber rotors of the mini helicopter had to turn 2500 times in two minutes of counter-rotation.

For NASA, the helicopter is a technological demonstration above all else. The current “diligence” rover is looking for traces of past life and producing models to take back to Earth, which does not require air support. It is about the question of how future trips can benefit from flight, for example, exploring a kind of identity booth or places that are difficult to access. NASA plans to send a “dragonfly” helicopter to Saturn’s moon Titan in the next decade. Even Martian astronauts, one day, will have to benefit from technology.

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Monument to another historic aircraft on board

Before the “perseverance” landing, there was NASA research leader Thomas Surbuchen Told SPIEGEL, As he flies in a helicopter, recalls the first robot car that crashed into Mars on NASA in 1997. It was called “Sojourner” – before it ran successfully, there were only fixed landing sites on the Red Planet. But research with small car wheel drive vehicles has shown that it can actually work and have advantages. That is the situation today. The helicopter might do something similar. “We want to prove that it really works.”

It looks like that on Monday’s flight. Four more flights are to be followed in the coming weeks. “Ingenuity” may then fly farther, especially in later attempts, but always return to the launch site.

Good PR at NASA. It comes from the fabric used by the Wright brothers in 1903 to cover the wings of their first flying aircraft, the Wright Flyer.

Coincidentally, Wright’s first voyage lasted only twelve seconds. Anyway, Intelligence has already surpassed this brand.