back to article Watch this: Ingenuity – Earth's first aircraft to fly on another planet – take off on Mars

Ingenuity has successfully performed a solar-powered autonomous flight on Mars, NASA confirmed on Monday. The dual-bladed helicopter took off from the Jezero Crater at 0734 UTC, marking the first time in history an Earth-built aircraft has flown in skies away from Sol d. NASA has now named the patch of Martian surface that …

  1. KittenHuffer Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    First post! ..... I mean First Flight!

    ------------> Weigh 2 Obv!

  2. A Non e-mouse Silver badge
    Pint

    Beers all round.

    'Nuff said.

  3. Chris G Silver badge

    Well I for one am impressed!

    The first time I tried to fly a drone in my garden, it rose about one metre, flipped over and powered into the drive.

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Without any form of stabiliser they're almost impossible to fly. But I think the real challenge here was designing to work with Mars' air pressure and gravity. Yes, they could test in chambers with the right air pressure but manoeuvrability with little or no lift is very difficult. OTOH depending how things go they might be able change materials and go with weaker but lighter blades.

    2. DJV Silver badge

      Well, I can think less expensive ways to remove weeds from your drive!

    3. adam 40 Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Droning on

      Why isn't this story filed under the EDGE+IOT category, with all the other drone stories?

      1. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: Droning on

        Probably because it's not connected to the Internet...

        Although in saying that, it would be interesting to know about their communications stack - are they are using bespoke protocols or have kept things simple and are using IPv4 over PPP.

        1. adam 40 Silver badge

          Re: Droning on

          But - none of the other drones in IoT are connected to tinternet either!

          1. Eclectic Man Silver badge
            Coat

            Re: Droning on

            Maybe it should be classified as ROTM*?

            I'll get my coat, it's the one with the tin hat in the pocket.

            *Rise Of The Machines (Did you see what I did there? Rise of the .. flying .. ? Oh I give in, your lot are no fun at all.)

  4. Forget It
    Coffee/keyboard

    Macavity

    He's broken every human law,

    he breaks the law of gravity.

    His powers of levitation would make a fakir stare,

  5. Pascal Monett Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    “When things work, it looks easy.”

    Damn right.

    This is a watershed moment, an incredible achievement, and a badge that all boffins and engineers who worked on this can wear proudly.

    Good on them.

    1. heyrick Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: “When things work, it looks easy.”

      Not just the helicopter. I was watching the initial landing. Sounds to me like it was using video cameras to recognise terrain that no human has ever walked upon, in order to land itself in the right place.

      The whole bloody thing is amazing. Blessing Mars with a UFO of its own is just the icing on the cake.

      1. DJV Silver badge

        UFO?

        In this case I think it was an IFO.

        1. heyrick Silver badge
          Happy

          Re: UFO?

          From the point of view of the natives?

      2. David Given
        Headmaster

        Re: “When things work, it looks easy.”

        Yes, it was... but it wasn't _quite_ as clever as it looked: mission control had uploaded a map of the area with safe areas to land marked on it, so rather than trying to interpret what it was seeing and decide whether it was safe or not, instead it just had to interpret what it was seeing and find its location on the map. Thus demonstrating that most intelligence can be trivially substituted for with a lookup table.

        Don't get me wrong, though: it's still bloody amazing.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    At least there will be no argument about who was the first, as there is on earth. Ader, etc. pre-dating the Wright bros.

    Also:

    Telephone: Antonio Meucci sold the working telephone, that he had been using to look after his ill wife, to Alexander Graham Bell

    Light bulb: Joseph Swan invented and then Edison commercialised in the US

    Engine design (pulse jet): Victorian England children's toy and the reinvented in the US by GE circa 2013

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The claim that this is some sort of first seems to wilfully ignore not only the rubber bowered balsa plane that was launched by Beagle, but also the many aeronautical achievement's of the Martians back in the day before the unfortunate 'dry up and lose our atmosphere' event 3.7 billion years ago. The first flight of Zog's ornithopter was easily 5.6 zarkons, dwarfing any attempt of he puny earthlings.

    2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Nothing new under the sun

      The history of invention is littered with concurrent developments – Newton and Leibniz can both be credited with calculus – and products out of time: da Vinci's helicopter, but also the patent for the fax machine, and I think the Chinese have a long list of stuff they came up hundreds of years before anyone else.

      But sometimes what only matters is being in the right place at the right time and you are Bill Gates and I claim my £5.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Nothing new under the sun

        I had my jab over the weekend so yes. I am Bill Gates. And soon you will be too.

      2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
        Happy

        Re: Nothing new under the sun

        Newton may have had his calculus, but his biscuit is shit compared to old Choco Leibnitz...

        1. Eclectic Man Silver badge
          Joke

          Re: Nothing new under the sun

          And Archimedes had his 'moments'.

    3. Cuddles Silver badge

      "Light bulb: Joseph Swan invented and then Edison commercialised in the US"

      You're probably thinking of Humphry Davy, who invented the incandescent light well before Swan was born, although the basic principle was demonstrated decades earlier again, and many people were working on the idea before either Swan or Edison got involved. Swan was the first to make electric lights commercially successful, but he certainly didn't invent them. And there really isn't any argument about whether Edison invented the lightbulb - his first patent was specifically for an improvement in electric lights. He might have been a highly ruthless and anti-competitive businessman, but even he never claimed to have actually invented lightbulbs.

      That aside, there absolutely can and will be argument about who was first to fly on Mars, as you could see from the comments on any previous articles. In particular, the Mars Science Laboratory skycrane has a pretty good claim to being the first powered flight on Mars, which would make Ingenuity third. That said, Ingenuity will certainly get a decent helping of firsts - first helicopter, first non-rocket-powered flight, first electric flight, first thing to make multiple flights (hopefully), and no doubt plenty of others.

    4. sitta_europea

      [quote]... Engine design (pulse jet): Victorian England children's toy and the reinvented in the US by GE circa 2013 [/quote]

      Er, weren't the V1 flying bombs pulse jets?

    5. Lotaresco

      "Engine design (pulse jet): Victorian England children's toy and the reinvented in the US by GE circa 2013"

      I think you're forgetting that there was "quite a bit" of work on pulse jets in Germany between 1939 and 1945. And many other uses of them by hobbyists before GE's work.

      Of course there's also Colin Furze with his 2013 Jet Bike.

  7. Neil Barnes Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    No doubt the conspiracy theorists will be calling 'fake'!

    Because they always do, right?

    Serious question: how does it do it's altimetry? (come to think of it, how do terrestrial models do it?)

    - Barometer; tricky as Mars has both such a low surface pressure and a slow lapse rate

    - Sonar; probably not going to work well at low pressure

    - Laser rangefinder?

    - Integrate acceleration (twice)? That could work but it's susceptible to drift, I suspect

    - Some combination of all these?

    What have I forgotten?

    1. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: No doubt the conspiracy theorists will be calling 'fake'!

      I would imagine it to be laser based. Things like the VL53L0X are extremely small and lightweight, so easy to incorporate.

      Could also be radar based as that wouldn't necessitate an exposed sensor.

      Disclaimer: I have no idea what they've used, but I have played with range sensors here on Earth.

      1. AdamT

        Re: No doubt the conspiracy theorists will be calling 'fake'!

        According to wikipedia it is a laser rangefinder: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ingenuity_(helicopter)

        Specifically, one of these: https://buy.garmin.com/en-US/US/p/557294

        To be honest, if I was Garmin, I'd have a "As Used On Mars" banner all over that page!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: No doubt the conspiracy theorists will be calling 'fake'!

      A rope with knots?

    3. Eddie G

      Re: No doubt the conspiracy theorists will be calling 'fake'!

      Wikipedia tells me that it uses a Garmin LIDAR Lite v3 laser altimeter ($130 from Sparkfun).

      It also has an inertial measurement unit (IMU).

    4. PhoenixKebab

      Re: No doubt the conspiracy theorists will be calling 'fake'!

      Off-the-shelf Lidar apparently: https://www.garmin.com/en-US/blog/general/garmin-on-mars/

      In the absence of any additional hardware, my original guess would have been the scale of own shadow in downwards facing camera. Assuming it stays in shot, this would be ok for the altitudes they are working at.

    5. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: No doubt the conspiracy theorists will be calling 'fake'!

      Maybe a simple IR Doppler sensor? The altitude is not going to be more than 30 metres so an LED based sensor or radar would probably do the job.

    6. Charlie Clark Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: No doubt the conspiracy theorists will be calling 'fake'!

      Yep, a whole heap of things that have to go completely right for it to work. But, don't forget: this isn't the first time something has landed on Mars: the rover can also help, not to mention to satellites in orbit. Not enough for an MPS, perhaps, but the high resolution imagery and atmospheric analysis will be useful.

      But still a fantastic achievement!

    7. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: No doubt the conspiracy theorists will be calling 'fake'!

      You knock on the janitor's door and say, "I'll give you this brand new barometer if you tell me how high that helicopter went"

    8. heyrick Silver badge

      Re: No doubt the conspiracy theorists will be calling 'fake'!

      "Because they always do, right?"

      Does anybody who isn't a fellow conspiracy theorist pay attention any more?

    9. Gene Cash Silver badge

      Re: No doubt the conspiracy theorists will be calling 'fake'!

      Per https://www.sparkfun.com/news/3810 it was a Garmin laser altimeter ordered from SparkFun.

  8. Eclectic Man Silver badge

    Brilliant

    My one regret is that the Register's 'Special Projects Division' was not around to see it. He would so have loved to see the first helicopter drone autonomous flight on another planet.

    1. Red Ted
      Go

      Re: Brilliant

      Yes, a real pity that Lester Haines did not get to see that.

      LOHAN, where for art thou?

  9. Eclectic Man Silver badge

    APOD video

    The same video is available on today's Astronomy Picture of the the Day:

    https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap210420.html.

    Full screen was not available on the Register's video, but is on the APOD one (although not HD quality).

    1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: APOD video

      Thanks.

      El Reg never lets you access full screen. It's really annoying. And the enlarged version meant I could see it turn.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The first terrestrial powered flight was in 1848

    The Wright Brothers' impressive claim to fame is for the first "manned" powered flight on Earth.

    But it was predated by more than 50 years by the first powered flight on Earth in 1848 by John Stringfellow.

    That surely is the correct precedent for Ingenuity's achievement.

  11. richardcox13
    Go

    Making travel to Mars cheap and routine

    Now airport code JZRO has been assigned. How long before Ryanair et al realise it is a cheaper alternative to more local airports (tax free!)?

    Return seat for £10, plus optional extras of £100b for little things like life support.

  12. Cynic_999

    I am wondering more about how it will navigate when it comes to the more advanced missions. Is its inertial system good enough to allow it to fly to various waypoints of interest and return reliably, or does it have another method of navigation?

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    War of the worlds

    Oh great.

    I can just see earth getting invaded by furious aliens after this drone hovers too near the Gatwickians air space.

  14. Nifty Silver badge

    Questions were popping into my head such as how can a small solar panel be useful on Mars and how long to recharge.

    There's a nice 'teardown' here

    https://www.popularmechanics.com/space/moon-mars/a35353442/ingenuity-mars-helicopter/

  15. cornetman Silver badge

    > The Red Planet has a thin atmosphere that’s almost a hundred times less dense than Earth.

    I always find expressions like that difficult to parse and doesn't make much sense. :(

    Perhaps say "a hundredth of the density of Earth's atmosphere". I think that would be a lot clearer.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nothing there...

    Well, there's some rocks a few metres away.

    1. Intractable Potsherd

      Re: Nothing there...

      What is your point? You keep saying the same thing, but I don't know why.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Nothing there...

        The point is that there's nothing there. Duh.

  17. Xiox

    But is it?

    The Soviets had the Vega 1 and 2 missions which were balloons which flew on Venus back in 1985. According to pilots on the internet, a balloon is an aircraft, so I think these have this Mars helicopter beaten (if that definition is correct).

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    First controlled flight?

    Wouldn't the lander for Curiosity count as the first controlled flight on Mars? It hovered to lower the rover before flying itself off somewhere to "land".

    With the same landing system used for Perseverance, it would make this the 3rd controlled flight, the 1st rotary controlled flight, or the 1st controlled landing that then allows a subsequent controlled flight.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    XKCD

    https://xkcd.com/2452/

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Other stories you might like

  • NASA ignores InSight's battery woes in pursuit of data
    Space boffins: Nevermind ekeing out the battery, let it go out in a blaze of glory!

    Pondering what services to switch off to keep your laptop going just that bit longer? NASA engineers can relate, having decided the Mars InSight lander will go out on a high: they plan to burn through the remaining power to keep the science flowing until the bitter end.

    The InSight lander is in a precarious position regarding power. A build-up of dust has meant the spacecraft's solar panels are no longer generating anywhere near enough power to keep the batteries charged. The result is an automatic shutdown of the payload, although there is a chance InSight might still be able to keep communicating until the end of the year.

    Almost all of InSight's instruments have already been powered down, but the seismometer remains active and able to detect seismic activity on Mars (such as Marsquakes.) The seismometer was expected to be active until the end of June, at which point it too would be shut-down in order to eke out the lander's dwindling supply of power just a little longer.

    Continue reading
  • NASA circles August in its diary to put Artemis I capsule in Moon orbit
    First steps by humans to recapture planet's natural satellite

    NASA is finally ready to launch its unmanned Orion spacecraft and put it in the orbit of the Moon. Lift-off from Earth is now expected in late August using a Space Launch System (SLS) rocket.

    This launch, a mission dubbed Artemis I, will be a vital stage in the Artemis series, which has the long-term goal of ferrying humans to the lunar surface using Orion capsules and SLS technology.

    Earlier this week NASA held a wet dress rehearsal (WDR) for the SLS vehicle – fueling it and getting within 10 seconds of launch. The test uncovered 13 problems, including a hydrogen fuel leak in the main booster, though NASA has declared that everything's fine for a launch next month.

    Continue reading
  • Mars Express orbiter to get code update after 19 years
    And over millions of miles, too. Piece of cake!?

    The software on ESA's Mars Express spacecraft is to be upgraded after nearly two decades, giving the orbiter capabilities to hunt for water beneath the planet and study its larger moon, Phobos.

    Mars Express was launched on June 2, 2003, and was initially made up of two components: the Mars Express Orbiter and the Beagle 2 lander. Unfortunately, the lander failed to make contact with Earth after it was released and arrived at the surface of the Red Planet. It is presumed lost. The orbiter, however, is still working after 19 years in service, spinning around Mars.

    Now, engineers at the Istituto Nazionale di Astrofisica (INAF), Italy, are revamping the spacecraft's software. The upgrade will allow the Mars Express Orbiter to continue searching for water locked beneath the Martian surface using its MARSIS radio-wave instrument and monitor the planet's closest satellite, Phobos, more efficiently. MARSIS is today operated by INAF and funded by the Italian Space Agency.

    Continue reading
  • NASA wants nuclear reactor on the Moon by 2030
    Space boffins task engineers with creating 40kW lunar fission plant that can operate for ten years

    NASA has chosen the three companies it will fund to develop a nuclear fission reactor ready to test on the Moon by the end of the decade.

    This power plant is set to be a vital component of Artemis, the American space agency's most ambitious human spaceflight mission to date. This is a large-scale project to put the first woman and first person of color on the Moon, and establish a long-term presence on Earth's natural satellite.

    NASA envisions [PDF] astronauts living in a lunar base camp, bombing around in rovers, and using it as a launchpad to explore further out into the Solar System. In order for this to happen, it'll need to figure out how to generate a decent amount of power somehow.

    Continue reading
  • NASA's Psyche mission: 2022 launch is off after software arrives late
    Launch window slides into 2023 or 2024 for asteroid-probing project

    Sadly for NASA's mission to take samples from the asteroid Psyche, software problems mean the spacecraft is going to miss its 2022 launch window.

    The US space agency made the announcement on Friday: "Due to the late delivery of the spacecraft's flight software and testing equipment, NASA does not have sufficient time to complete the testing needed ahead of its remaining launch period this year, which ends on October 11."

    While it appears the software and testbeds are now working, there just isn't enough time to get everything done before a SpaceX Falcon Heavy sends the spacecraft to study a metallic-rich asteroid of the same name.

    Continue reading
  • NASA delays SLS rollback due to concerns over rocky path to launchpad
    The road to the Moon is paved with... river rock?

    NASA's Moon rocket is to trundle back into its shed today after a delay caused by concerns over the crawlerway.

    The massive transporter used to move the Space Launch System between Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) and launchpad requires a level pathway and teams have been working on the inclined pathway leading to the launchpad where the rocket currently resides to ensure there is an even distribution of rocks to support the mobile launcher and rocket.

    The latest wet dress rehearsal was completed on June 20 after engineers "masked" data from sensors that would have called a halt to proceedings. Once back in the VAB, engineers plan to replace a seal on the quick disconnect of the tail service mast umbilical. The stack will then roll back to the launchpad for what NASA fervently hopes is the last time before a long hoped-for launch in late August.

    Continue reading
  • NASA's mini-spacecraft CAPSTONE just launched on its journey to the Moon
    25kg CubeSat the size of a bar fridge will plot course for Gateway space station, pave way for human boots on Moon

    Rocket Lab has sent NASA's Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE) spacecraft on its way to the Moon atop an Electron rocket launched from New Zealand.

    The launch had been subject to a number of delays, but at 09.55 UTC today, the Electron lifted off from Rocket Lab's Launch Complex 1 on the Mahia Peninsula of New Zealand.

    Continue reading
  • Mars helicopter needs patch to fly again after sensor failure
    NASA engineers continue to show Ingenuity as uplinking process begins

    The Mars Ingenuity helicopter is in need of a patch to work around a failed sensor before another flight can be attempted.

    The helicopter's inclinometer failed during a recommissioning effort ahead of the 29th flight. The sensor is critical as it will reposition the craft nearer to the Perseverance rover for communication purposes.

    Although not required during flight, the inclinometer (which consists of two accelerometers) is used to measure gravity prior to spin-up and takeoff. "The direction of the sensed gravity is used to determine how Ingenuity is oriented relative to the downward direction," said Håvard Grip, Ingenuity Mars Helicopter chief pilot.

    Continue reading
  • Whatever hit the Moon in March, it left this weird double crater
    NASA probe reveals strange hole created by suspected Chinese junk

    Pic When space junk crashed into the Moon earlier this year, it made not one but two craters on the lunar surface, judging from images revealed by NASA on Friday.

    Astronomers predicted a mysterious object would hit the Moon on March 4 after tracking the debris for months. The object was large, and believed to be a spent rocket booster from the Chinese National Space Administration's Long March 3C vehicle that launched the Chang'e 5-T1 spacecraft in 2014.

    The details are fuzzy. Space agencies tend to monitor junk closer to home, and don't really keep an eye on what might be littering other planetary objects. It was difficult to confirm the nature of the crash; experts reckoned it would probably leave behind a crater. Now, NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) has spied telltale signs of an impact at the surface. Pictures taken by the probe reveal an odd hole shaped like a peanut shell on the surface of the Moon, presumably caused by the Chinese junk.

    Continue reading
  • Returning to the Moon on the European Service Module
    Moving to series production and dealing with the US, where things are done slightly differently

    Interview NASA has set late August as the launch window for its much-delayed Artemis I rocket. Already perched atop the booster is the first flight-ready European Service Module (ESM). Five more are in the pipeline.

    Airbus industrial manager Siân Cleaver, whom The Register met at the Goodwood Festival of Speed's Future Lab, has the task of managing the assembly of the spacecraft, which will provide propulsion, power, water, oxygen and nitrogen for the Orion capsule.

    Looking for all the world like an evolution of the European Space Agency's (ESA) International Space Station (ISS) ATV freighter, the ESM is not pressurized and measures approximately 4 meters in length, including the Orbital Maneuvering System Engine (OMSE), which protrudes from the base.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022