There is some breaking news: The Mars Helicopter’s first flight was successful! Find out how did the first flight go and how the mission team achieved it after working on the project for at least 6 years.
The Procedures of the First Flight
Firstly, we have to talk about the procedures of the first flight on Mars. It’s not like a passenger flight on Earth that stays airborne for thousands of kilometers before landing. In fact, the Mars Helicopter is only able to fly up to 90 seconds in one Martian day! Therefore, the first flight of the Mars Helicopter is very simple. The task is to climb to 10 feet (about 3 meters) at 1 meter per second, hover there for 20 to 30 seconds, and come back down to the Martian ground.
After the first flight, the Mars Helicopter will probably conduct further flights which will involve horizontal movement. However, even if these flights don’t succeed, the first flight and the rigorous tests on Earth proved that it’s possible for an aircraft to fly in the thin atmosphere on Mars.
The Mars Helicopter won’t be the last rotorcraft to fly outside Earth either. Now, the helicopter is opening up the aerial dimension of space exploration, which can make rovers more effective by planning the route ahead. Or it may even explore places that are unreachable by rovers and landers and explore biologically sensitive places.
How the Mission Team Developed This Solution?
Well, the helicopter’s design took long to develop, despite its apparent simplicity. That’s because it’s trying to make the aircraft light, robust, and powerful enough for its blades to spin fast enough to lift off.
The first design came in 2014, where the helicopter looks very different from what it is now. The design improved gradually with some modifications to the landing legs and fuselage, and finally gets to the design that flew on Mars today.
After the final design has come, it has to be stowed in the Perseverance rover and deploy once the rover is safely at the right spot on Mars. Therefore, the engineers came up with a solution, involving a deployment system in the belly of the rover.
Finally, after all systems are tested and the design is approved, the only thing it can do at that time is to wait for the launch, cruise, and landing of the Perseverance rover. After that, it has passed through numerous milestones, including deploying to the Martian surface and completing some tests. All of that leads to the brief first flight today, and the mission is already successful as it has completed all critical objectives.
So, we’ve talked about the procedures of the first flight of the Mars Helicopter’s first flight, and very briefly described the work of the mission team of 6 years.
References and Credits
- NASA’s Mars Exploration Program. (2021, April 19). Ingenuity’s First Black-and-White Image From the Air. Retrieved April 19, 2021, from https://mars.nasa.gov/resources/25818/ingenuitys-first-black-and-white-image-from-the-air/
- NASA’s Mars Exploration Program. (2021, April 7). Say Cheese on Mars: Perseverance’s Selfie With Ingenuity. Retrieved April 19, 2021, from https://mars.nasa.gov/news/8912/say-cheese-on-mars-perseverances-selfie-with-ingenuity/
- NASA’s Mars Exploration Program. (2021, April 9). NASA’s Mars Helicopter to Make First Flight Attempt. Retrieved April 19, 2021, from https://mars.nasa.gov/news/8915/nasas-mars-helicopter-to-make-first-flight-attempt/
- Mike Wall. (2019, March 23). 2020 Mars Helicopter Could Open Alien Skies to Exploration. Retrieved April 19, 2021, from https://www.space.com/mars-helicopter-nasa-space-exploration.html