The first attempt to fly a helicopter in the atmosphere of Mars


The US space agency “NASA” announced that it is organizing the first flight operation of a motor vehicle on a planet other than Earth in early April, as an attempt will be made to take off the “Ingenuity” small helicopter in the atmosphere of Mars.
Even now, the very lightweight Ingenuity, which resembles a large drone, is still folded and mounted beneath the Perseverance mobile robot that landed on the surface of the Red Planet last month.

“The best estimate available at the moment (for the first flight) is April 8,” said the chief engineer of “Ingenuity”, Bob Ballaram, in a press conference.

If the test is successful, it will be a great achievement, as the density of the Martian atmosphere does not exceed one percent of the density of the Earth’s atmosphere.

This Martian event will be as important as the achievement represented by the first engine flight on the planet in 1903. And NASA reported that a small piece of cloth from the Wright Brothers’ plane that took off more than a century ago in North Carolina, was placed on “Ingenuity” in greeting The first ground flight of flight, and thus it is currently on Mars.

It is expected that this first sortie will be very simple, as the helicopter will take off vertically, then it will rise to a height of three meters and hover on this level for 30 seconds and then rotate on itself before landing again.

The helicopter will receive its instructions from Earth a few hours before, but it will itself analyze its position in relation to the surface of Mars during its flight, by taking 30 pictures per second.

And the US Space Agency has already determined the area that the helicopter will fly over and is located north of the landing site of the mobile robot. Farah Ali Bey, the NASA official in charge of coordinating the robot and helicopter teams, said that Perseverance should travel by wheels to this runway, “which takes a few days.”

The robot will place the helicopter in the appropriate location for its take-off, then pass over it to move away from it. Perseverance should be enough in less than 25 hours to make way for the sunlight needed by the helicopter to generate its energy with solar panels, so that it can warm itself during the cold Mars nights.

The mobile robot will then be stationed at a control point that will allow it to take pictures with its camera of the “Ingenuity” flight.

NASA plans to make up to five sorties spread out over a month, and they are graded in difficulty.

The helicopter consisted of four superimposed legs, a chassis and two propellers. It measures 1.2 meters from one end of the blade to the other. The fans run at 2,400 rpm, which is five times faster than a regular raft.

The helicopter program cost NASA about $ 85 million.

In the future, such vehicles could play a very important role in planet exploration thanks to their ability to reach places that roving robots could not reach (over canyons, for example).

The US Space Agency is working on another pilot project as part of the “Dragonfly” mission, which in 2026 will send a drone to Titan, the largest moon of Saturn, to reach it in 2034.

And “NASA” reminded that flight experiments of vehicles without motors on another planet had been conducted in the past by sending weather balloons in 1985 to Venus as part of the “Vega” program in which the Soviet Union cooperated with other countries.


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