The Ingenuity ultralight helicopter will take off on the surface of Mars in the spring of 2021 after a seven-month journey into space.
Perseverance self-propelled robot and Ingenuity helicopter. Photo: NASA.
When NASA’s Perseverance self-propelled robot launches in late July 2020, an experimental device called Ingenuity will be securely mounted underneath the robot for a seven-month journey. Ingenuity will be the first helicopter to fly on another planet.
Although development of autonomous robots began 10 years ago, engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena began to design ultra-light aircraft that can fly on Mars in 2014. The process of mass-testing of the model lasted until January 2019, when the design passed the final test.
Ingenuity has a super light design, weighs only 1.8 kg and is fitted with 4 carbon fiber wings, solar cell and battery pack. The blades between the two rotor motors rotate in opposite directions. Ingenuity’s rotor spins faster than most helicopters on Earth. Mars has an extremely thin atmosphere, so Ingenuity’s design must be light, and at the same time, the rotor is large and rotates quickly to be able to take off. The helicopter does not carry any scientific equipment because it is an experiment in itself to demonstrate technology. Ingenuity will conduct three flights on Mars.
Although Ingenuity has undergone many tests on Earth simulating Mars conditions, designers have to wait until Ingenuity lands with the Perseverance robot to know the plane can withstand cold temperatures up to -90 degrees Celsius. night or not. Ingenuity will fly automatically based on pre-programmed instructions instead of real-time instructions due to data transmission delay between Mars and Earth.
The first Ingenuity flight and landing test are scheduled for spring 2021. But first, the plane has to pass its launch at Cape Canaveral later this month, its journey through space to Mars. and land on the planet. Then, Ingenuity will separate from the robot’s belly and follow the program to make the most appropriate decision to stay warm at night and charge through solar cells.
The first flight of Ingenuity will take place within Perseverance’s sight. The robot’s camera will track the flight. “Perseverance can record helicopters while Ingenuity is flying about 50 – 100 meters away. Whether a helicopter can observe the robot depends on its direction and height,” said Matt Wallace, deputy managing director of the project. Perseverance project at JPL, said.
Based on experience, engineers can conduct up to 4 additional test flights within 31 days. If Ingenuity’s technology demonstration is successful, the experiment could pave the way for more advanced aircraft in future missions to Mars, both autonomous and manned, according to NASA.
(According to CNN)