The engine is still in the sky of Mars; What is a NASA helicopter doing?

NASA Engineers Engineer (Ingenuity) was made and tested just to answer a simple question: Can this helicopter fly in the atmosphere of another planet at all? However, after more than 120 days on Mars, the engine is still flying. The helicopter, which first flew on April 19, is constantly breaking its own distance and speed records.

An engineer helping an astronaut Perseverance (Perseverance) Exploring areas near the Old River Delta; An area that may be a sign of ancient Martian life. The helicopter is also coping with the changing seasons and navigating the rugged terrain of Mars; While it was not made to do these things at all! Stay tuned to Zummit to see what the engine is doing on Mars.

Test the limitations

Compared to its early flights, the engine is flying farther and faster and at higher altitudes. The helicopter was able to reach a height of 12 meters above the surface of Mars and reach a speed of 5 meters per second and fly a distance of 625 meters. From this data, engineers obtained valuable information about flight restrictions on Mars.

Teddy Xanthos“The robotics engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), who leads one of the engineering project teams, says:

We are still learning, and through the data of each flight, we are teaching the limitations of engine performance.

Early in the mission, the engine tested its flight restrictions in a way that the flight crew had not planned for it. On the sixth flight on May 22, the helicopter navigation system fluctuated alarmingly due to a technical defect.

The helicopter navigation software examines the location of the helicopter by capturing the image and reading the time information of that image and predicting what the camera should see in the future. If the next image does not match that prediction, the software corrects the position and speed of the helicopter to better match the direction of the engine.

Bob Balaram“NASA senior engineering engineer says about this incident:

Less than a minute after the technical glitch, a photo was lost on the way from the camera to the engine processor; As a result, the timing of the back-up photos became problematic, and correcting what the engineer misunderstood led to very difficult and dangerous routing.

Fortunately, the engine finally landed on Mars at a distance of five meters from the pre-programmed point. Fortunately, the whole flight became a valuable experience for the group, and we now have much more confidence in our helicopter.

Doing scientific activities

Initially, the research team wanted to test the engine as much as possible before it finally crashed and crashed; But now researchers are trying to fly less cautiously at the same time; Because at the moment, the helicopter is helping perseverance in scientific work. Zantus In this regard, he says:

For some time now, we have not focused solely on engineering experiments, and now we are a small part of a much larger group.

The helicopter has proven its worth by announcing the dangers of the route to the probe. The ninth engine flight on July 5 (July 14) over a sandy called Sita South (South Seitah). Due to the ruggedness of the area, Persevers could not safely search the route. On the flight, an engine captured images of protruding rocks and ridges in the South Sita. Scientists first speculated that the ridges of this area contain information about the deepest lake environments that have existed in this area for a long time.

Engine image of Mars

An image of South Sita broadcast by Ingiuti.

Nevertheless, the 3D images submitted by the engine showed that this hypothesis was incorrect; As a result, the probe’s navigation team decided to continue the route, preventing damage to the perseverance on this long, difficult, and potentially dangerous route.

Coping with changing seasons

In general, the atmosphere of Mars is very thin. Since mid-September, the thickness of the atmosphere at the mouth of the Jezero has become thinner. As the seasons on Mars change from spring to summer, the planet’s air density has dropped from 1.5 percent of Earth’s to 1 percent. This change in air density does not seem to be a big change; But to compensate for this small change, the rotation speed of the engine blades needs to be increased to stay in the air.

Last October, the helicopter had to increase its propeller speed to 2,700 rpm; While the maximum value of this number was 2537 rpm. At higher rotational speeds, an engine can stay in the sky for only 130 seconds; Whereas in the previous conditions it could fly for 170 seconds without increasing the risk of the engine overheating. Zantus Says:

This will be enough time for the engine to orbit the probe. Their next two-person mission will be to travel to the Delta River at the entrance to the Yazro estuary. The perseverance team hopes to cover hundreds of meters each day on Mars in exploring the area. The longest flight the engine has ever flown was 625 meters, which was done at lower rotation speeds. This will be a challenging topic.

The shadow of an engineer

The recorded image of the engine’s shadow by itself when its blade rotation speed first reached 2700 rpm.

Eventually the day will come when the engine will no longer wake up or may even overturn and perish on one of the landings; But if that does not happen, he could continue his mission for many months.

Inspiring future flights

Meanwhile, engineers are dreaming of building the next Martian bird. Zantus Says:

The engineering project is very exciting and has helped us gain a lot of experience in building Martian birds. The main feature of this helicopter is that it is “the first”.

The current roadmap includes a larger version of the engine that is capable of carrying more tools and can perform missions both independently and in combination with a probe and a hexacopter (a six-butterfly bird). The next aircraft travels longer distances in less time than the probe, and the distances that Perseversion may travel in a few years take months.

A white paper submitted for the 2032-2032 edition of the Annual Review of Planetary Science and Astrobiology suggests several possible missions for Martian helicopters. One of these missions is that the helicopter can be made of clay minerals, for example in the valley. March (Mawrth Vallis) to sample. The Mart Valley is a canal thought to have been formed by a very old flood. Soil can protect organic matter in the ground and sampling it can detect signs of life in March Be efficient.

دره‌ی مارث

Colored image of Mart Valley (recorded by NASA’s Reconnaissance Mars Orbiter)

Helicopters can also be used to explore ice-covered, steep slopes. With multiple measurements at different altitudes, the mechanism of gas exchange between the atmosphere and the surface of Mars can be understood, and finally, the mystery of how liquid water disappears on Mars can be solved.

It is worth mentioning that even this helicopter can map the magnetic field of large parts of the surface of Mars in order to know the core of Mars. When a person steps on Mars, it is better for a group of drones to fly around to guide him along the way while carrying the equipment.

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