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NASA’s Helicopter To Fly On Mars With A Piece From Wright Brothers’ Airplane

by Kareena Dodeja

NASA’s Helicopter To Fly On Mars With A Piece From Wright Brothers’ Airplane

March 31, 2021

The Wright Brothers are about to make a mark on the Red Planet as NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter will take a part of Wright Flyer I. It is going to go down in history as one of the greatest moments if it's a success, let us hope for the best. To infinity and beyond, here we go!

The Wright Brothers Making History

The Wright Brothers made strides as they tested out their first-ever aircraft design in December 1903 which was a huge accomplishment. Now, they are ready to take over another planet. On April 8, the Ingenuity Helicopter is set to make its first powered attempt on the mars.

Bobby Braun, the director for planetary science at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory said it will mark a ‘Wright Brother’s Moment.’ The Carillon Historical Park in Dayton, Ohio which is the Wright brothers’ hometown donated the piece of muslin from their plane’s bottom left wing to NASA.

 

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The swatch of fabric is about to make a 300 million-mile journey to Mars because of the Wright Brother’s great-grandniece and great-grandnephew- Amanda Wright Lane and Stephen Wright. They said in a statement that the Wright Brothers would be pleased that a little piece of their Wright Flyer I, a machine that launched the Space age would part of history again on Mars.

On December 17, 1903, at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, the brothers were onboard the world’s first powered, controlled flight. A piece of Wright Flyer wood and fabric was flown to the moon with Apollo 11’s Neil Armstrong in 1969. A swatch was even part of Orbit aboard space shuttle Discovery in 1998 with John Glenn. Now a swatch would be taken along with NASA’s 4-pound helicopter to rise 10 feet into the Martian air.

The Ingenuity helicopter is going to carry a piece of fabric from the first test flight 100 years ago by Orville and Wilbur Brothers. The small material that covered the wings of the aircraft known as the Flyer by the Wright Brothers in their first flight will now be part of Ingenuity. Isn’t that legen-wait-for-it dary? The material will be wrapped in insulative tape around the cable that is located under the helicopter’s solar panel.

Tim Canham, the head of the NASA helicopter team said that he had never had an aircraft that can power itself off to another planet. This is a first to make history if it succeeds. The Ingenuity helicopter is designed from scratch to fit into the conditions of Mars. It costs 80 million dollars and has taken three years to build. One of the fascinating facts is the helicopter will have to work hard to overcome the planet’s thin atmosphere.

Ingenuity Helicopter Is Going Up And Beyond

The helicopter is attached to the belly of the Perseverance rover as it had traveled for over 200 million km from earth to mars landing on February 18 through an operation in the Jazero crater. The rover in the last week had deployed its graphite composite debris shield that protects the ingenuity during the landing. The rover is currently in transit to the airfield where the Ingenuity is going to be attempting to fly.

Once it has been deployed, the Ingenuity will have 30 days or sols as in 31 Earth days to conduct the test flight. The rover tweeted that it is on its way to the airfield where the Mars helicopter will conduct its first test flight. The Ingenuity must be in the middle of the airfield as in the path of land before attempting the flight on mar as per the scientists.

The land is identified to be flat and of no critical obstructions. The helicopter and rover teams have to confirm that the Perseverance is situated perfectly inside the airfield then only the process to deploy the helicopter to Mars can begin. The Helicopter Integration Lead, Farah Alibay Mars said in a statement that there has never been done such type of deployment before so once they start, there is no turning back. He reiterates that the activities are conducted closely coordinated and dependent so even if there is something not expected, they will hold it off till know what is going on.

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Will The Mission Be Successful?

The helicopter will perform five flights in 31 days and each flight will monitor the conditions of the flight to see if it is working alright. The Ingenuity will fly by itself and it can collect data from the sensors and two cameras attached to it. The helicopter has a heater and thermostat to overcome the cold Martian nights.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) said that the deployment would take around six Martian days when the team will activate a bolt-breaking device that will release a locking mechanism that will hold the helicopter firmly against the rover’s belly which is followed by a pyrotechnic device that will be fired enabling the mechanized arm that holds the Ingenuity to rotate the helicopter out of its horizontal position and it is ready to deploy its legs off the landing.

They said that when the third sol of the deployment takes place, the electric motor will finish rotating the Ingenuity until it latches off which brings the helicopter vertical. During the fourth sol, the two landing legs will snap off into position and on the fifth sol, the team will have the final opportunity to utilize the Perseverance as a power source and change the six battery cells of the Ingenuity.

During Sol 6, it is a crucial day as it will confirm that the Ingenuity’s four legs are firmly on the surface of the Jezero crater just like the rover did previously. It will drive about 16 feet away and the helicopter and rover will be communicating with each other through the radios inside it.

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Mission To Mars- Legendary or not?

The two machines will relay transmissions to each other once the sequence is completed and the codes are punched in from Earth. The JPL team would work on a flight plan that considers the local wind patterns and measurements from Mars Environmental Dynamics Analyser and then decide if it is good to lift off.

NASA mentions that once the first flight has taken off, the Perseverance would downlink Ingenuity’s first set of data and images and videos from the Rover’s Navigation Cameras and Mastcam-7. During the first evening of the flight, the data is downlinked and the Mars helicopter team can determine if the Mars flight was a success. The rover will observe the other test flights before it goes on to its mission which is hunting for signs of ancient Martian life. Rock samples would be taken for the return to Earth. History is about to go down!

 

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