A NASA drone makes its maiden flight to Mars

The first historic flight took place on the surface of Mars. The Ingenuity miniature helicopter successfully completed its first flight to the Red Planet on Monday, April 19, 2021, according to reports from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratories (JPL), which oversees these operations.

The trip on Mars is a real achievement because this planet has less gravity than Earth’s (about a third of Earth’s) and an atmosphere with a density equivalent to only 1% of Earth’s. Atmospheric pressure makes flight difficult and requires the equipment to be light.

Flight duration of 39.1 seconds
On reaching Mars connected to the Perseverance rover, the Ingenuity drone aims to make the first flight on the planet. This is done now. Creativity rose to 3 meters above the ground, the maximum height specified for this first attempt, and stayed in the air for 30 seconds. Then he began his descent to retrieve the Martian dust. In all, his flight took 39.1 seconds. Dexterity transmitted data related to her flight, including captured images, to NASA via the perseverance wagon. The other data has not been recovered by NASA teams.

This small helicopter does not contain any scientific measuring instrument. Recharging itself with solar energy, it has a wireless communication system and is equipped with computers, sensors for easy navigation and two cameras (one color and the other black and white). All of these components have been miniaturized to the limit so that the plane weighs 1.8 kg and can take off. It is 0.49 cm high, has two fans, has a maximum wingspan of 1.2 meters, and rotates at 2,400 rpm.

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Open source with the help of this historic first voyage
The drone made this first flight independently. A necessity due to transmission delays that are too long to be able to control the device from the ground. So the creativity was equipped with guidance, navigation and control systems. Qualcomm has been significantly involved in manufacturing Ingenuity due to the fact that it has been equipped with the Snapdragon 801-based Qualcomm Flight chip.

On the software side, JPL has turned to open source and developers around the world have been able to help develop creativity. GitHub claims to have identified approximately 12,000 developers who have contributed to the open source software used in Ingenuity. A second test flight is scheduled for this small unmanned aircraft on April 22nd. If successful, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory will consider how best to continue these flights.

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