NASA Completes Second Helicopter Flight On Mars

The Ingenuity drone has made its second successful flight on Mars, the BBC News website reports. It first made history on April 19, when the solar-powered helicopter became the first aircraft to make a powered flight on another planet. The drone was landed on the Red Planet’s Jezero Crater in mid-February by the Perseverance rover.

The first flight achieved a height of three metres and maintained a hover of 30 seconds before descent, Aerospace Manufacturing reports. The second flight ascended to five metres altitude, tilted and moved laterally for two meters, before reverting to its original position and landing. NASA intends to push the drone a little further with each flight.

Håvard Grip, Ingenuity’s chief pilot, said: “The helicopter came to a stop, hovered in place, and made turns to point its camera in different directions. Then it headed back to the centre of the ‘airfield’ to land. It sounds simple, but there are many unknowns regarding how to fly a helicopter on Mars. That’s why we’re here – to make these unknowns known.”

The flights were autonomous, meaning that they were piloted by onboard control systems running algorithms developed by NASA’s team at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. Data is sent to and received from Mars over a distance of hundreds of millions of miles, using orbiting satellites and NASA’s Deep Space Network.

Meanwhile, NASA have also successfully managed to make oxygen from Mars’ carbon dioxide atmosphere, using a device known as Moxie. The device was able to generate 5g of oxygen, which would be sufficient for an astronaut to breathe on Mars for 10 minutes.

It is hoped that during any future manned missions to Mars, scaled-up versions of Moxie could be taken to generate oxygen. This would save the need to transport all the oxygen required for sustenance from earth.

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