Few people are unaware of the existence of Kitty Hawk, a coastal town in North Carolina, USA An event took place there on December 17, 1903, which made the place famous. Two young men flew a plane made with machinery. The Wright brothers successfully experimented with technology that could fly through Earth’s atmosphere. A similar experiment is being carried out in April. The place is not on earth. NASA is preparing for a test to see if the spacecraft will land on our neighbor Mars.
They landed a small helicopter to fly like a log through the thin atmosphere of Mars. The helicopter was supposed to be at the base of Mars’ Perseverance, which took off from the Florida launch pad in July 2020. The Perseverance landed on the surface of Mars on February 18, 2021. The expert team confirmed that the helicopter was not damaged during the long journey. One of the strategic objectives of this mission to Mars is to fly there.
This is the first attempt to fly an airplane off the Earth. The vast and relatively flat Jessiro basin of Mars was chosen for this purpose. Perseverance landed right there on the target. Mimi Ong and her team at the Pasadena Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California are delighted that it is having medium success. Ong’s team is in command of the helicopter mission.
Flying to Mars is not trivial
NASA’s helicopter mission is ‘Ingenuity’. Explaining the mission, Ong told the media that they had only one goal. “We need to see if we can fly a plane across Mars.” It is not trivial. The atmosphere of Mars is so difficult. There was no wind, no rain, no rain. We have the technical knowledge to fly a plane even when pressure is low and there are storms. We have unmanned aerial vehicles and drones. But on Mars, this technique is not enough. The atmosphere of Mars is quite different from that of Earth.
Mars has no atmosphere at all; Only one percent of the land. This atmosphere is heated by the heat of the sun. Even if it is light, there will be pressure fluctuations. This will create obstacles for the aircraft to fly. The magnetic field of Mars is also less intense. As a result, cosmic rays fall sharply. All of this will make steering the aircraft difficult. From an unknown surface, the helicopter must take off and land. That is also dangerous. Control of the mill is California. Then they will receive information about Mars.
Helicopters also have gauges that measure temperature, pressure, wind speed, and speed. All of this is also attached to our aircraft. The pilot flies the plane after analyzing the information it provides and making an immediate decision. Ingenuity flies at its own discretion. This is because it takes at least 25 minutes for the map to send to California for a response. By then, the weather may have changed. Ingenuity has gone with the tools of intelligence to make its own decisions; Air travel that harnesses the potential of artificial intelligence.
All the subtle moves!
The helicopter, which remained at the bottom, was shot down a few days after the mothership landed in Jesiro’s Perseverance Basin. There are many small and large rocks there. The rover flew over the surface of Mars, observing the location of the helipad that would support the four legs of the helicopter. Time drags on because each step is carefully placed. Four feet (1.2 m)
The long helicopter landed slowly on April 3. The screws attached to the percussion were removed one by one. The helicopter was hanging from a rope.
It weighs only 1.8 kilograms. The legs hang at a height of 13 cm without touching the ground. It’s very cold outside. At night it drops to minus 90 degrees Celsius. Machinery should warm up slightly without breakdown. For that, the motherboard battery was fully charged. It was a precaution until the sun unfolded and charged the solar panel and it started working automatically. The health status of the machine parts was evaluated one by one. Everything is safe.
On April 3, when the message arrived from the ground, the rope broke and the helicopter was shot down. Ingenuity as a launching pad. Perseverance crawled like a turtle after laying an egg. Perseverance was kept in a safe position by observing the helicopter. Now everything has to be done by the helicopter itself. Testing continues before the test flight. Checking where to fly, how far to fly and if you can land safely.
The first flight was scheduled for April 8. NASA has now announced that it will be April 14 or later. NASA has arranged to show this historic event live. It can be viewed on YouTube and using the NASA app. The Wright brothers’ first trip was not seen by many. Not even a photo was saved. Researchers are confident that this important event will not happen. This will be the greatest achievement of our technology.
What is stored on Mars?
Ingenuity is the evaluation of the atmosphere of Mars. The cold of the first night did not seem unbearable. All machines are operational. The mission team shares the joy in California. The helicopter rotor blades are spinning. At 2,537 rotations per minute, the helicopter will take off. It will be verified if it is possible to win so fast by holding it to the legs. Quick look step by step. The first flight will take 12 seconds to complete. If successful, the plan is to make the trip last 20-30 seconds.
This small helicopter has a maximum flight capacity of 300 meters. It flies at an altitude of 5 m. That is why the Jesiro Basin was chosen to avoid rocky areas. Helicopters fly only during the day. The view from Earth at night is not possible. If not, the night was better. The density of the air increases at night. Then the plane will take off easily. The device was dispatched after a test flight in all possible conditions, creating conditions similar to the atmosphere of Mars. However, the unexpectedly changing Martian weather mission could make the mission difficult.
The message is transmitted to the ground perceived by a remote observer. The helicopter has a lifespan of only 30 Mars (31 Earth days). Every second is so precious. If we can fly a plane to Mars, the technology that prepares it will also be of great use to us here. Weather monitoring with artificial intelligence, unmanned aerial vehicles, solar powered airplanes, and machine-controlled airports are now easier for us.
The technology is being tested to fly the aircraft through low pressure areas. Man is about to cross an important milestone in his quest to conquer other planets. Global travel and space colonies are not a distant dream. The time has come for intelligent machines to guide us!
(The author is a former director of the Kerala Science, Technology and Environment Council and a science writer)
Summary in English: NASA delays the first flight of the Mars Ingenuity helicopter until April 14