He only had to fly five times. And so far NASA’s helicopter, Asani, has completed 12 flights to Mars and is not ready to retire.
In view of its spectacular and unexpected success, the US space agency has extended the Ease mission indefinitely.
The small helicopter has become a regular traveling companion of Rover Persuasion, whose primary mission is to find traces of ancient life on Mars.
“Everything is working great,” said Josh Roach, head of Ingenuity’s mechanical engineering team. “We are doing better than we expected on the surface.”
Hundreds of people took part in the project, although currently only a dozen maintain daily roles.
Roach joined the team five years ago.
“When I got the chance to work on the helicopter project, I think I had the same reaction as someone else: ‘Is this even possible?’ ‘
His initial suspicions were understandable: the density of air on Mars is only one percent of the Earth’s atmosphere. By comparison, flying a helicopter on Mars would be equivalent to flying in thin air 20 miles (30 kilometers) above the earth.
Nor was it easy to get to Mars in the first place. Easily endured the initial shock of takeoff from Earth, and then landed on the Red Planet on February 18 after a seven-month journey through space, stuck in the rover’s belly.
Once in its new environment, a small (four-pound, or 1.8-kilogram) helicopter had to escape the icy cold of Mars nights, drawing heat from solar panels that charge its batteries during the day. And its flights are guided using a series of sensors, as a 15-minute delay in communicating with the ground makes real-time guidance impossible.
Duties of Scouting
On April 19, Asani made its maiden flight, making history as the first motorized craft to fly to another planet.
Exceeding all expectations, it has flown 11 more times.
“We’ve actually been able to handle the winds better than we expected,” Roach told AFP.
Roach, who works for NASA’s renowned Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), said: “I think we achieved all of our engineering goals through Flight Three.
Since then, Ease has risen to 39 feet (12 meters), and its last flight lasted two minutes and 49 seconds. In total, it covered 1.6 miles.
In May, Intelligence flew its first one-way mission, landing outside a relatively flat “airfield” that had been carefully selected as its initial home.
But not everything went smoothly. His sixth flight brought some excitement.
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After dangerously knocking off the balance due to a malfunction affecting the images taken in flight, the small plane was able to recover. It went down, safe and stable, and the problem was solved.
Ease is now being sent to find a way to endure using its high resolution color camera.
The goal is twofold: to chart a route for the rover that is safe, but also of scientific interest, especially geologically.
Ken Farley, who heads the steadfast science team, explained how easy photographs taken during his 12th flight show that the region named South Setha is of less interest to scientists than expected. Was
As a result, the rover may not be sent there.
After more than six months on the Red Planet, the small drone-like craft has gained a growing following on Earth, including cups of coffee and T-shirts sold on the Internet.
What is the explanation for its longevity?
“The atmosphere has been very supportive so far: temperature, wind, sun, dust in the air … it’s still very cold, but it could have been much worse,” Roach said.
In principle, the helicopter should be able to operate for some time. But the approaching Mars winter will be difficult.
NASA engineers, now equipped with easy flight data, are already working on their next-generation successors.
“Something in the 20 to 30 kilograms (range) might be able to carry a science payload,” Roach said.
Future payloads may include stone samples collected through persistence.
NASA plans to retrieve these specimens during a future mission – sometime in the 2030s.
South China Sea:
US submarine collides with unknown object.
USS Connecticut photographed leaving a port in 2018.
U.S. officials say a U.S. nuclear submarine hit an “unknown object” while sinking in the Asia-Pacific region, injuring several sailors.
He said it was not clear what happened on Saturday. The submarine remained “fully operational”.
Unidentified officials told U.S. media that the collision took place in international waters in the South China Sea, and 11 sailors were injured.
The incident took place amid rising tensions in the area.
The US Navy said the extent of the damage was being assessed and that the submarine’s nuclear propulsion plant and spacecraft had not been affected.
The statement did not say where the incident took place or the number of people injured, but said the injuries were not “fatal”.
But two of the 11 sailors who were injured were described as “moderate,” two officials told the Associated Press. All of them were put in a submarine.
The officials said the incident took place while the submarine was conducting normal operations and the navy did not release the news before Thursday to maintain operational security.
Authorities said the USS Connecticut collided with another submarine, according to the AP. An official with the agency said it could be a sunken vessel or container, or some other unknown object.
Alexander Neal, a defense and security expert from Singapore, told the BBC that the number of casualties from the collision suggested that the submarine had “hit something big” and was “going really fast”.
He described the incident as “unusual but unheard of” and exposed the military’s involvement in the area.
Mr Neil said: “The South China Sea is increasingly being flooded with ships from many different countries. “
Commenting on a report in China’s state-run daily Global Times, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said China was “deeply concerned” about the incident and called on the United States to provide more details, including the purpose of the mission.
It was later reported that the submarine was heading for the US territory of Guam.
The last known incident where an underwater U.S. submarine hit another underwater object was in 2005, when the USS San Francisco struck near Guam It crashed into a mountain under water at high speed. A sailor was killed in the incident.
Why is the South China Sea so controversial?
The USS Connecticut was operating in one of the most disputed areas in the world. China claims most of the South China Sea, but neighboring countries and the United States disagree.
The Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam have been at odds over almost all of China’s sea claims for decades, but tensions have risen sharply in recent years.
The United States has backed many of these countries in this territorial dispute.
The incident comes just weeks after the United States, Britain and Australia signed a landmark security agreement in the Asia-Pacific region, which is seen as an attempt to counter China.
Meanwhile, US National Security Adviser Jack Sullivan told the BBC he was “deeply concerned” about steps that could undermine the peace in the Taiwan Strait, which separates Taiwan and China.
He was speaking after a record number of military planes were sent from China to Taiwan’s air defense zone on the fourth day.