NASA’s Mars helicopter enters new phase

Published May 2, 2021
The shadow of NASA's Mars helicopter Ingenuity is seen during its second flight, captured by its black-and-white navigation camera. — Reuters
The shadow of NASA's Mars helicopter Ingenuity is seen during its second flight, captured by its black-and-white navigation camera. — Reuters

LOS ANGELES: After exceeding all expectations with its initial four test flights, the first ever by an aircraft over the surface of another planet, NASA’s tiny Mars robot helicopter Ingenuity is ready for graduation.

The US space agency announced on Friday that Ingenuity is shifting from a pure proof-of-concept, technology demonstration mode to a more ambitious mission gauging how aerial scouting and other functions might benefit future scientific exploration of the Red Planet.

Ingenuity’s 30-day planned project extension was outlined during a briefing from its mission control centre at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) near Los Angeles, where the twin-rotor aircraft was designed and built.

The new “operational demonstration” phase of the 4-pound, solar-powered chopper began with its fourth takeoff on a nearly two-minute flight on Friday morning. Data returned from Ingenuity later in the day showed that it covered a round-trip distance of 872 feet — roughly the length of three American football fields — at a speed of almost 8 miles per hour.

The helicopter flew at height of about 16 feet, considered ideal for the ground-surveillance work it was performing while aloft and matching the altitude of its second and third flights.

The latest outing topped the speed and distance records set on Sunday by flight No. 3, which went farther and faster than the test flights conducted on Earth.

By comparison, Ingenuity’s very first 39-second flight on Mars on April 19 climbed just 10 feet high, hovered in place briefly and descended straight back down for landing.

Published in Dawn, May 2nd, 2021

Opinion

What a tangled web

What a tangled web

So poorly kept is this secret about the opposition’s real hopes and no plans that even the government has figured it out.
Climate threat over South Asia
Updated 26 Oct 2021

Climate threat over South Asia

Water shortages, drought, floods or landslides and tsunamis are not constrained by national boundaries.
Losing heritage
26 Oct 2021

Losing heritage

It’s not a good idea to turn Mohatta into a college.
The long impasse
Updated 25 Oct 2021

The long impasse

Management of Pakistan-India tensions is likely to remain the main focus of sporadic backchannel efforts.

Editorial

26 Oct 2021

Perfect in every way

GLORIOUS. Gratifying. Liberating. Pakistan’s thumping victory over India in their opening fixture of the T20 World...
26 Oct 2021

Balochistan CM’s exit

ON Sunday, Jam Kamal Khan Alyani’s name was added to the long list of chief ministers of Balochistan who ...
Minister’s odd logic
26 Oct 2021

Minister’s odd logic

THE government’s contradictions and confusion appear to have no end when it comes to dealing with the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan.
25 Oct 2021

Party to a vile campaign

THE PTI government’s hostility towards the media and its intolerance for dissent is well known. The target of ...
Financial crisis
Updated 25 Oct 2021

Financial crisis

DESPITE having progressed to ‘very good step’ and being ‘close to concluding the agreement’ a few days back,...
25 Oct 2021

Morals and Pemra

TIME and again, Pemra has come under fire for issuing arbitrary instructions to TV channels on matters ranging from...