How NASA's Mars helicopter opens the door to more ambitious missions than flying

How NASA's Mars helicopter opens the door to more ambitious missions than flying


Mars is an exciting place to try to fly a helicopter. The temperature is one thing. A paralyzed -3 º C (-130º F), largely frozen, which can cause any machinery to freeze and lock. It is also remote. Mars is currently 287 million kilometers (178 million miles) from Earth, meaning that radio signals, even moving at light speeds, are about 16 minutes away from the two worlds in just one way Let's decide And then there is the deviant marine environment - only 1% of the Earth's density, which makes it very difficult to rotate the blade.


But flying a helicopter to Mars is exactly what NASA did today, when a small inertia drone lifted off the floor of the Jazeroro Crater at 3:34 AM EDT (Tuesday, just after Mars time), 3 meters (10). At the height of (feet) stood for 40 seconds, and gently touched from below, kicking a plume of rusty red dust. This was the first flight of a plane to another planet, 118 years after the Wright Brothers performed the same feat on Earth. For the record, the total ease time was a maximum of 12 seconds of rights.


"We compare it to the Wright brothers," said Steve Jorzak, acting NASA administrator. "The first ground-to-ground flight used twin blades, propellers in two gas-powered motors to form the aircraft." Counter We are using two to four-foot-long counter-rotating propellers on helicopters, which are powered by electric motors.


The slightest flight on Mars was made by such an ordinary machine. Cleverly standing at just .49 meters (19 inches) tall and weighing 1.8 kilograms (4 pounds), it is small and light enough to fit inside the belly of the entire cruise car-sized Prosperity Rover between Earth and Mars. Has passed But the humble side of simplicity believes in its complex engineering and its $ 80 million price tag. The helicopter has its own on-board computer, heater, guidance system, camera and laser ultimator. Its 1.2-meter blades rotate at a speed of 2,537 revolutions per minute, five times the speed of ter or supersonic helicopter blades - which must be lifted in the whisper of Martin's wind.


Still images of the flight and the stop-action video were easily captured by the two mounted cameras - one black and white and one color - and the other preseason, which was secured at a distance of 65 meters from Ignatius 10 meters before the flight. Had supported Zone. A microphone on board also tried to capture the audio of the helicopter motor, although according to the text, the data had not yet been processed.


Today's flight might not have happened at all when the controllers tried to test their blades at high speed on April 9, the controllers did not solve any problem, as the system moved from its previous flight to flight mode. Shut down a so-called "watchdog" system after it detects an anomaly. Ultimately, NASA decided that the solution to eliminate bugs was to upload patches to the helicopter's software.


To this extent, precautionary measures have been taken from the outset to address the seriousness of the problem. Simply unloading the helicopter from the rover and lowering it to the surface was a six-day, multifaceted task involving activating a bolt-breaking device, firing a cable-cutting pyrotechnics, and easily rotating it to its upright position. It involved stretching your legs. , And finally let it fall to the ground for the last 13 centimeters (5 inches). The light weight of this machine was only 38 less than the relatively low gravity of Mars, which made the fall easier to survive.


This first short flight will by no means be an easy one. It is scheduled to operate four more flights over the next month. All of this is due to the NASA site designating the airport for Jazero as Design Jay Zedro. The altitude and distance of each flight will increase permanently and the wind exercises become more complex. "We will work up to 300 meters and 90 seconds of flight. None of this will be easy because the radio signal interval makes it impossible to fly a helicopter in real-time," says Jorzak. As such, all orders must be pre-loaded by radio up.


Unlike perseverance, which was sent to Mars for research, it is not easy to do any science other than simply scanning your camera. Like the first flight of the Wright Brothers, this is just a demonstration mission. It is testing whether one day the Mars spacecraft could be used as an advanced scout for rovers and humans and as a means of researching hills and high output that would otherwise be out of reach. Will be. . According to approval of its engineering series, there is easily a bit of unnecessary cargo: a small piece of Wright's real plane cloth is tapped on the underside of it - the switch that made North Carolina long ago. Fly on the shores and fly today. Then, in a pit on distant Mars.



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