back to article Sorry to drone on and on but have you heard of Ingenuity? NASA's camera-copter is ready to head off to Mars

NASA this week championed its autonomous helicopter Ingenuity, which is next month due to blast off to Mars attached to its buddy, the Perseverance rover. Ingenuity measures 1.2 metres (4ft) across, and is neatly folded and stowed away underneath Perseverance. The flying gizmo weighs just under two kilograms (4lb), and sports …

  1. Chris G Silver badge
    Pint

    I wish them the best of luck on the landing and deployment, once that is done the adventure can begin.

    I can't wait to see the first footage of a successful flight.

    1. Glen 1 Silver badge
    2. LucreLout Silver badge

      I can't wait to see the first footage of a successful flight.

      I am stupidly excited about this given my general ignorance of the physics, astrophysics, chemistry, engineering, etc that has gone into this. We already have a car on another planet (2 if include the moon buggy), and now we're getting a helicopter.

      One of the saddest realizations I had this year was how few more space missions and launches I'm likely to live to see (making it through another 30 years will be ambitious). There's just something epic about them all....

      1. teknopaul Silver badge

        More than 2 cars. There have been 6 Mars rover attempts, 4 successful, and 4 lunar rovers.

        Just sitting there with they keys left in them, waiting for the next naut with a jerry can of nuclear fuel.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Mars NIMBY types...

    Let's hope Mars NIMBY types aren't lying in wait, ready to shoot it down on its inaugural flight.

    If there are any aliens on Mars living a quiet life, we'll soon know about it.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Sampler

      Re: Mars NIMBY types...

      I was going to say, I know the drone flight restrictions on Earth are a bit harsh but this seems to be pushing it a bit...

  3. Julz Silver badge

    Why

    Didn't they put in on the top?

    1. RockBurner

      Re: Why

      My first thought too.

      I can only assume (without any other knowledge of the Perseverence mission) that the top of the lander is covered with other instrumentation: cameras, solar panels etc, that are of higher priority to the mission overall than an experimental minor element.

      As such they've had to come up with an inventive alternative solution (aka a bodge) in order to add the drone to the mission.

      1. teknopaul Silver badge

        Re: Why

        While this is true, nasa missed an opportunity to design the solarsystem's most bling helipad.

    2. imanidiot Silver badge

      Re: Why

      too much very important stuff up there that could get damaged if the takeoff somehow went bad for any reason.

    3. vtcodger Silver badge

      Re: Why

      "Why Didn't they put in on the top?"

      The two things that come to mind are:

      1. Landing on Mars is quite difficult. Fewer than half the dozen of so attempted landings have been successful. They very likely put the helicopter experiment where it would be the least problem during descent.

      2. This is their first attempt. If their aircraft fails during its initial flght for some unexpected reason, they probably don't want it to drop onto their rover.

      It's a neat idea. I wouldn't have thought it to be practical. Good for them.

    4. LucreLout Silver badge

      Re: Why

      Didn't they put in on the top?

      Its getting carried on what amounts to a car. The car needs to land wheels down and balance, so you want as much weight as possible between the axles and as low down as you can get it while preserving your ground clearance requirements. Same reasons you do it on a good race car.

    5. JCitizen Bronze badge
      FAIL

      Re: Why

      After watching that earth bound lab test of the drone deployment, I don't have a lot of confidence it is going to work. It looked like they had a couple of technicians with crow bars trying to get the deployment mechanism to work. We all know how disasters happen so easy on Mars! I reference the failed drilling device on that last fiasco!

  4. don't you hate it when you lose your account Bronze badge

    Such cool toys

    Me envious, what gave it away :)

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Braingasm

  6. hammarbtyp Silver badge

    has it been registered with Martian authorities?

    1. Mike Richards

      Were they perhaps testing it at Gatwick late last year?

  7. Thicko

    If they get the camera, the background view and the light just right, the first flight video could become as iconic as the liftoff from the moon.

    1. Kane Silver badge
      Joke

      "If they get the camera, the background view and the light just right, the first flight video could become as iconic as the liftoff from the moon."

      Like, in a studio environment or something?

  8. Mike Richards

    Logical next step

    After (somehow) pulling off the whole Skycrane contraption, NASA had to really think of something even more amazingly outlandish to try on Mars - I wish them all the very best of luck with this bonkers-brilliant whirlybird.

  9. Jan 0
    Pint

    Hard to test this

    I was wondering how this helicopter drone was tested. I read that it has been flown in a large vacuum chamber* (~600 Pa or ~ 6 mb at Mars' surface), but gravity is also lower on Mars and can't be conveniently simulated.

    Apparently it can only fly for 90 seconds before it needs to spend a day recharging! I presume that that's about keeping its weight down. It's there as a proof of concept rather than as a tool.

    *see https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/23/science/mars-helicopter-nasa.html

    1. imanidiot Silver badge

      Re: Hard to test this

      They tested it in the very large vacuum chamber at NASA Glenn Research Center to simulate the atmospheric conditions. They used a rope and pulley system to simulate the gravity difference. While this has some impact on the control behaviour of the craft, that difference is easy to predict and compensate

      1. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

        Re: Hard to test this

        Thank you. My immediate thought on seeing the story was: but...the thin atmosphere!? Surely needs bigger blades?

        1. bombastic bob Silver badge
          Devil

          Re: Hard to test this

          have you seen a photo of it? The blades are long and wide and apparently fold up nicely for the trip to Mars. I think the total rotor diameter is over 1 meter, and they would have had to construct them from super-light-weight material, maybe like model airplane wings? [yeah I used to build those when I was a kid, paper and balsa wood]

          Although i would expect carbon nanotubes from NASA...

          (duckduckgo search, "mars helicopter photo", lots of hits, some with people so you can get a size reference)

  10. 89724102172714182892114I7551670349743096734346773478647892349863592355648544996312855148587659264921 Bronze badge

    Nuke recharging for planet-wide LIDAR mapping in all seasons please

  11. bob_a_builder2

    Now if only there was something like a constellation of satellites that could provide a GPS lock

    1. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

      Yeah, that's actually how ~all commercial drones auto-selfstabilise now: via v.fast GPS readings.

      So this must have old-fashioned gyros onboard.

  12. cbars Silver badge

    Finally

    They can scout over the top of poor old Beagle 2, blow the dust off and get those final panels winched up!

    Extraterrestrial maintenence drones for the win!

  13. HildyJ Silver badge
    Pint

    Eye in the Sky

    The hardest part is landing and the Perseverance rover is the main mission. The whirlybird is just gravy (and even NASA calls it a technology demonstration).

    I wish the boffins best of luck with all phases of the mission.

    I just hope neither the US Space Force nor Elon takes over the concept.

    1. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Black Helicopters

      Re: Eye in the Sky

      "I just hope neither the US Space Force nor Elon takes over the concept."

      Why not? (see icon)

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