First post! ..... I mean First Flight!
------------> Weigh 2 Obv!
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 …
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.
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.
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.
At least there will be no argument about who was the first, as there is on earth. Ader, etc. pre-dating the Wright bros.
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
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.
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.
"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.
"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.
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?
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.