back to article NASA’s getting really good at this flying a helicopter on Mars thing

NASA's Ingenuity Mars helicopter has flown flying faster and further than ever before - even when it was on Earth - and we even have video of Sunday's 80-second flight because the Perseverance Rover’s Mastcam-Z had its eye on the drone's third flight. The video showed the helicopter lift vertically to an altitude of five …

  1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Nice one

    So they've already flown longer than the Wright Bros first flight time, next step to beat their distance (with the aid of the bit of the flyer skin attached to the 'copter)?

    Top engineering boffinry anyway, pints all round to the guys and gals involved!

    1. HildyJ Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: Nice one

      Not mentioned in the article, they also set a Martian speed record of about 2 Osmans per second.

      I wonder if I can add beer to my Amazon Subscriber and Save?

  2. Red Ted Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Very cool

    Why are there two sets of tracks in the aerial photo? Has Perseverance been going in circles?

    1. 45RPM Silver badge

      Re: Very cool

      They’re either being chased by Martian Police for flying their drone too close an airfield, or its that whole Jesus footsteps thing again. https://xkcd.com/1575/

    2. JetSetJim Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Very cool

      Continuity editor on the sound-stage made a mess up.

      1. 0laf Silver badge

        Re: Very cool

        Bloody Martians coming down in their 4x4s to stare at the Rover

        1. Tom 7 Silver badge

          Re: Very cool

          Expecting a bit of Marvining as its called up there.

    3. John Miles

      Re: Why are there two sets of tracks in the aerial photo?

      At a guess it will involve testing systems out, looking best place for and dropping helicoptor off and they can't move to far from helicoptor at this stage

  3. Pascal Monett Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Awesome

    We now have the ability to make aerial surveys. NASA can send the drone to scout out a region, take a few snaps and report the data, letting boffins determine whether or not it would be interesting to send the trundlebot over there.

    That's going to make for more efficient exploring.

    Hats off to the boffins !

    1. Flexdream

      Re: Awesome

      Would a tethered observation balloon on Perseverance be a useful supplement?

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Awesome

        I suppose being mainly CO2 means the air is heavier than on earth, but at 1% density, how big would a balloon have to be? Not to mention the heavy tank of He required to fill it.

        I wonder if a flight deck on top of a future rover with charging pads where the legs touch down, or wireless charging, might be better and more efficient than having the extra mass of solar panels on the drone for self charging in the drone might be better.

        1. Stoneshop Silver badge

          Re: Awesome

          On the other hand, not having to return to the rover for recharging would allow for flying (and exploring) further away as long as it can have the occasional radio contact to send "I'm still doing fine" signals, with the bulk of its collected data transferred once it's back.

        2. jdiebdhidbsusbvwbsidnsoskebid

          Re: Awesome

          "I suppose being mainly CO2 means the air is heavier than on earth, but at 1% density, how big would a balloon have to be? Not to mention the heavy tank of He required to fill it."

          I guess the composition of the air is largely irrelevant. If the mars air is 1% the density of earth's, then I presume to get the same lift as a balloon on earth it would need to be 100x the volume, all other things being equal. So that's about 3.2x bigger in terms of height.

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
            Joke

            Re: Awesome

            Ok, so lets get rid of the He tank too. Oxygen is lighter than CO2 and they have now proven they can generate O2 from Martian atmospheric CO2. How much larger does the balloon now have to be?

            1. Bill Gray

              Re: Awesome

              Not as much as I'd have expected.

              CO2 has a molecular mass of about 44; He, 4; O2, 32. So the volume would increase by (44-4)/(44-32) = 40/12=3.33-fold. Cube root of that is about 1.5, i.e., the balloon has to be about 50% bigger in all directions.

              Though actually, we'd probably be using hydrogen, not helium. (This is Mars. It won't burn.) Hydrogen molecules leak less than helium does. There is a very slight advantage due to a lower molecular mass of 2.

              Still... compressed tanks of gases are heavy. If they leak, you can't generate more. Silly as it sounded at first, I now actually wonder if you might do well to generate O2 on Mars and use that to lift your balloon/dirigible. Yes, the balloon has to be 50% larger, but not having to deal with hydrogen or helium would be a Big Deal.

              And, of course, technology to extract oxygen from the atmosphere of Mars might eventually be of biological utility.

              As to volume needed : on Earth, a cubic meter lifts about a kilogram. On Mars, the atmospheric density is (I think) about 1% of that, so you'd be talking about needing a hundred cubic meters to support one kilogram, or about 333 m^2 if you're using O2. Which would have to include the mass of the balloon, too. I don't know enough about balloons to say if that's stupid to hope for.

              1. JetSetJim Silver badge

                Re: Awesome

                Well, you can actually make a lead balloon that properly floats :)

                A hot air balloon is about 2,000m^3 and weighs around O(100kg) (ballpark numbers), so making one that would work is probably fine. Getting it there and deploying it might be another problem.

                Equally, what should they do with the balloon during high winds (even if at 1% density)? Do you need to be able to reliably and repeatably deflate & reinflate it? Will it accumulate dust blown onto it (adding weight)?

              2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

                Re: Awesome

                "Silly as it sounded at first, I now actually wonder if you might do well to generate O2 on Mars and use that to lift your balloon/dirigible"

                Wow! My implied "left as an exercise for the reader" went a long way with you. Thanks for that, very informative. I'd guess something like a weather balloon, which can be mind bogglingly large based on a laymans (my!!) expectations while being of exceptional;y low mass might actually be doable if the oxygen generator idea can be reasonably scaled up. Maybe there's a use for Googles "Project Loon" on Mars? :-)

        3. Tom 7 Silver badge

          Re: Awesome

          I think there might be a problem with the winds. Rovers dont work to well when they're dragged across the Martian surface on their side.

        4. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
          Black Helicopters

          Re: Awesome

          > "I wonder if a flight deck on top of a future rover"...

          I doubt they'd appreciate the risk involved of the copter potentially missing the target by a few centimetres and whacking the rotors against whatever instrumentation they have up there. Or the sandblasting effect of the downwash.

          A towable landing platform might fare better, but I doubt that would be any lighter than the copter being self sufficient. Plus, as others have noted, being able to land and recharge will allow longer expeditions.

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: Awesome

            Well, obviously the landing pad would have to be higher than everything else (and act as a sun shade) and the downwash would have been useful on Spirit and Opportunity :-)

        5. Kibble 2
          Happy

          Re: Awesome

          Redundant systems are a good choice for when repair staff are years away, I would think.

      2. 2+2=5 Silver badge

        Re: Awesome

        > Would a tethered observation balloon on Perseverance be a useful supplement?

        No. Because even if it were useful, sods law says that if it got punctured or collapsed it would land on top of Perseverance and cover all the cameras, foul the wheels etc.

      3. FIA Silver badge

        Re: Awesome

        Would a tethered observation balloon on Perseverance be a useful supplement?

        And how the jeff are you going to inflate it??

        Good luck finding a clown on Mars.

      4. AdmFubar

        Re: Awesome

        just need to be careful this doesn't happen

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CIx0a1vcYPc

  4. Pete 2 Silver badge

    First step towards human colonisation

    This thing will make a great pizza delivery system .... when there is someone on Mars to deliver it to (and another robot to make them to order)

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: First step towards human colonisation

      It's an American mission, all their technology is aimed at high speed pizza delivery.

      1. Version 1.0 Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: First step towards human colonisation

        If there are any issues then maybe they can order a replacement from Amazon?

    2. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: First step towards human colonisation

      The only useful pizza delivery system is pair of hands. We have a local chap who drives his wood fired oven around to various places (including my local pub/brewery) and I am now of the opinion that pizza is indeed a food and not something that resembles the box it came in. And the new wild garlic pesto is pretty dam cool too!

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: First step towards human colonisation

        >The only useful pizza delivery system is pair of hands

        The only useful pizza delivery system is the Deliverator.

        The Deliverator's car has enough potential energy packed into its batteries to fire a pound of bacon into the Asteroid Belt. .... The Deliverator's car has big sticky tires with contact patches the size of a fat lady's thighs.

  5. B83
    WTF?

    WTF

    Yeah, WTF, a helicopter on another planet. Mind boggling, nothing else for it.

    Absolutely amazing achievement.

    Looking forward to seeing more images as it flies around the planet.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ahhhh the smell of pure excellence. What a wonderful achievement.

  7. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Alien

    Coming to the 'net soon

    A whole new tranche of conspiracy theories.

    Seriously: Fantastic work Guys,

    1. tfb Silver badge
      Alien

      Re: Coming to the 'net soon

      Oh, they're already here. At least one person has been asking what bit of wing fabric did it carry since the Wright brothers did not in fact fly in 1903.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Coming to the 'net soon

        They used the Nasa time machine from 2165

  8. Dave White
    Black Helicopters

    What an amazing time to be alive! Think about what we as a species have achieved since the invention of the integrated circuit...

    1. RegGuy1 Silver badge

      Think about what we as a species have achieved since the invention of the integrated circuit...

      Brexit?

  9. MiguelC Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    Re: "They demonstrated the ability for the helicopter to fly on Mars, a challenge in and of itself as Mars' atmosphere lacks the density that creates lift."

    Au contraire, I think they demonstrated that, even with the thin atmosphere (less than 1% the density of Earth's), it can create enough lift to fly on Mars

  10. don't you hate it when you lose your account Silver badge

    Where's the phone app

    So I can have a go!!!!! But I suppose NASA don't want to pay the 30% steal tax :)

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Where's the phone app

      It;s the comcast long distance charges that really kill you.

      the very-very small print, limits your included 4G data to Earth

  11. ukgnome

    NASA flies drones much better than I do - althought I doubt they have to contend with trees

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Based on my experience with done flights, now that NASA is getting pretty good at flying, the next step will be an overconfident flight terminating in a tree.

      That will be a great scientific achievement: discovery of the first Martian foliage!

  12. Alan Brown Silver badge

    secondary use

    One of the big killers of martian probes has been dust buildups on solar panels. This shows that it's feasible to blow it off (perserverence is nuclear powered but there's nothing preventing future probes having both)

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: secondary use

      It's why need astronaut cats which will sweep the dust, and any delicate instruments, off the rover.

  13. WaveyDavey

    Caption should be ...

    Photograph taken from a Canberra

  14. Kubla Cant Silver badge

    Truly brilliant.

    Did anyone else feel that the gap when the drone went off screen was a bit like those disconcerting moments when you lose sight of a young child or dog that's been left in your charge?

    1. MacroRodent Silver badge

      Yes. Also I was fully expecting it to go around the rover. and reappear at the left edge of the video.

      1. Phones Sheridan

        I was half expecting at 45 seconds the video to splice in a screaming Zombie!

        Or maybe Zelda :)

  15. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

    All well and good

    But I'm waiting for the first bird strike.

    1. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: All well and good

      My hens aren't laying!

  16. John Doe 12
    Pint

    Beers All Around

    I would like to be the first to say they all deserve a beer from one of the many Mars' bars :-D

  17. Sleep deprived
    Thumb Up

    At last a noiseless drone!

    Let's hope DJI and others reuse NASA's design in their consumer products...

    1. tfb Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: At last a noiseless drone!

      It is in fact very noisy indeed. There are recording of it in the hypobaric chamber during test and it's loud.

  18. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Refreshing!

    I see the usual nay-sayers have taken the day off.

    1. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: Refreshing!

      No I haven't!

  19. Grunchy

    Totally not in Arizona

    If they keep jacking around they’re going to break that stupid thing.

    As for the guys insisting that footage was “totally” in Arizona, maybe not?

    I’m thinking it could actually be in Mexico.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Wow. F'n incredible but the slam landing had me worried for a second.

    When can I go?

  21. rcxb Silver badge

    Do a barrel roll!

    n/t

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nothing there...

    So much nothing that I wasn't even sure I'd pressed play on the video. The only interesting things they've got pics of are the things that they put there.

    1. tfb Silver badge
      Alien

      Re: Nothing there...

      And here they are. A person whose life is so empty that they spend their useless hours and days searching for articles about great human achievements so they can write depressing, stupid comments in a futile attempt to make everyone else's life into the grey meaningless waste that is all they have ever known.

      It must be horrible being you: I wish I felt sorry for you, but I don't.

      1. John Doe 12

        Re: Nothing there...

        This has to be the most poetic push-back I have ever read!! Well said that man :-D

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Nothing there...

        Meh! Ad hominem is the go to response for people with no argument.

        1. tfb Silver badge
          Alien

          Re: Nothing there...

          'You must have the full set of elbow reinforcement on your jumper.' – ZanzibarRastapopulous, 2021

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Nothing there...

            That's a compliment to a geologist.

            1. Graham Dawson Silver badge

              Re: Nothing there...

              It's really not.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Nothing there...

                Was it too close to the truth...

                1. Graham Dawson Silver badge

                  Re: Nothing there...

                  I have worn padded elbows, but only because I used to be an electrician. Your attempt at stereotyping anyone capable of understanding the benefits of space exploration only reveals how petty and narrow your life must be.

                  1. Anonymous Coward
                    Anonymous Coward

                    Re: Nothing there...

                    I was stereotyping geologists actually.

                    1. Graham Dawson Silver badge

                      Re: Nothing there...

                      As I said last time:

                      "This person disagrees with me, I'm going to try and disparage his position by portraying him as a stuffy old fart."

                      Grow up.

                      1. Anonymous Coward
                        Anonymous Coward

                        Re: Nothing there...

                        That's a proper Waah!

            2. tfb Silver badge
              Pirate

              Re: Nothing there...

              I see, it was a complement to a geologist. Because that kind of casual stereotyping is, after all, how you complement people, isn't it? The geologist I know would be so flattered ... oh, no, she wouldn't, at all: she'd chew your head off. Of course, after your endlessly-repeated 'it's just pictures of rocks' comments, we all know exactly what your opinion of geologists – people who, you know, are a bit interested in rocks – must be, right? So, gosh.

              But actually I'm kind of impressed. What you're doing is as if I searched out articles on, I don't know, Java, and made a near-identical stupid little comment about how Java was the most boring thing in the world in each one. And then obsessively watched for replies to my comment. We used to get usenet trolls who did that (in fact, entertainingly, when I looked relatively recently at a newsgroup I used to read, it had been completely destroyed by the troll: everyone actually interested in the topic of the newsgroup had long left, and the troll was left, posting followups to articles more than a decade old and sometimes to themselves I think). I don't know what it says about your state of mind, but what you're doing is kind of impressive in a very sad way.

              1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

                Re: Nothing there...

                I'd be wary of insulting geologists, they have 'rock hammers' and things.

                In any case I believe that a certain Sir David Attenborough is by training a geologist (and zoologist). (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Attenborough)

  23. Mark Exclamation Bronze badge

    Chinese Communist Party here....

    Well done NASA, great work! Please tell us which server all your design data is for this helicopter is on..... oh never mind, we've found it.

  24. Aussie Doc Bronze badge
    Pint

    We don't need no posh title

    Just a frickin' awesome job.

    All involved - on the house.

  25. hayzoos

    Neat

    Now all they have to do is command the rover in a particular path. Then command the aircraft to view the tracks. The pattern should read "Hello World".

  26. Eclectic Man Silver badge
    Happy

    Mission extended! (yay!)

    According to el Reg's greatest rival (New Scientist), the mission for Ingenuity has been extended for a month:

    "The mission was planned to include only five flights before the Perseverance rover drove away and began its own primary missions of searching for signs of ancient life and collecting samples to be returned to Earth. However, NASA officials announced on 30 April that Ingenuity will travel alongside Perseverance, capturing aerial images that could help the rover scout potential routes and scientifically interesting areas nearby.

    Read more: https://www.newscientist.com/article/2276387-nasas-ingenuity-helicopter-has-made-its-fourth-and-furthest-flight/#ixzz6tbnogVSS"

    Excellent news that a space drone thingy made partly with commercial-off-the-shelf parts is lasting long enough for a mission extension.

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