back to article Mars Ingenuity helicopter and Perseverance are talking again

The long-lived Ingenuity helicopter has made contact with NASA's Perseverance rover on Mars after an unexpected communications blackout. Ingenuity just passed the milestone of a year of operations on the Red Planet, after being designed for five experimental test flights over 30 Martian days during 2021. Thus far, the …

  1. RegGuy1 Silver badge
    Pint

    TFTFY :-)

    Its most recent flight resulted in Ingenuity travelling approximately 1,371 feet 421.8m horizontally at a maximum altitude of around 33 feet 10.2m.

    We don't want to encourage the brexiters. Way to go, tech team! Do you think it will fly? Maybe. Bloddy hell, it's been up a year! Have a beer (0.5l obviously). :-)

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: TFTFY :-)

      It was almost certainly in metric units originally, but NASA is worried about alienating the congress, senate and voters, so translates back from "foreign" to red, white and true blue American Units for the press releases :-)

      1. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: TFTFY :-)

        Dont you mean 'Imperial' measurements?

        You know the measurements us british overlords forced you to use.....

        1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
          Alien

          Re: TFTFY :-)

          I was going to point out that NASA is American, and they did their Brexit (ie declaring independence from Britain) about 250 years ago, give or take a few.

          So all this new-fangled metric stuff doesn't feature so much, at least in distance measurements.

          There have been attempts by them (NASA) to swap, but it didn't go so well...

        2. Martin an gof Silver badge

          Re: TFTFY :-)

          Dont you mean 'Imperial' measurements?

          Not quite. It seems that while US distances are broadly the same as "Imperial", other measurements (volumes particularly) are not.

          M.

          1. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

            Re: TFTFY :-)

            I think that's because YEXIT (Yank exit) occurred while Britain still had a squillion local variations of measures. Volumes in particular were all over the shop, with multiple definitions of hogshead and firkins and barrels and so on. So they inherited a subset of those, which then expanded geographically. Britain had a big push for standard measures at some point but I can't remember exactly when.

            It was only the desire for more readable train timetables that led to standardizing _time_. Every town had its own (correct) time. Now nearly all towns have an incorrect but standard time. Except Oxford. Oxford's town clock still runs on Oxford time, not standard time. 2mins behind or something.

            1. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
              Pirate

              Re: TFTFY :-)

              I've always ascribed it to liquids (alcoholic, especially) 'evaporating' on the journey across the Atlantic.

              "Yes mate, that's the full 6 gallons/48 pints. Honestly. Hic"

            2. Trigonoceps occipitalis

              Re: TFTFY :-)

              "Volumes in particular were all over the shop, with multiple definitions of hogshead and firkins and barrels and so on."

              Ah, the firkin:

              The imperial Unit of Excess, always used in pairs, as in "two firkin much" and "two firkin heavy".

        3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: TFTFY :-)

          "Dont you mean 'Imperial' measurements?"

          No, as with English, they adapted and bastardised the system and made it their own :-)

          "You know the measurements us british overlords forced you to use....."

          Oi!, Who're you calling a septic? :-)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: TFTFY :-)

      Its most recent flight resulted in Ingenuity travelling approximately 1,371 feet 421.8m 210.2 Osmans horizontally at a maximum altitude of around 33 feet 10.2m 5 Osmans.

      If we must maintain standards, let us conform to ElReg ® standards.

      In all seriousness, another case of beer for the boffins. But despite their ingenuity, I doubt that Ingenuity is long for that world. Winter is coming.

  2. Mayday Silver badge
    Pint

    Well done

    Once again showing how it’s done.

    Keep up the good work, Mars nuclear tanks and solar flying robots.

  3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

    Next time,

    ...put the solar cells below the big whirly fan. As a tech demonstrator it's a huge success. The production model will need some tweaking :-)

    1. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

      Re: Next time,

      I'm still impressed they got an aircraft to work in Mars's ultra-thin atmosphere at all, let alone a "helicopter" design.

  4. rajivdx

    Didn't they think of putting a little 'helipad' on Percy so Ingenuity could ride on Percy's back during the cold winter months?

    1. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

      I'm pretty sure they did think of that, but initially the idea was to keep Ingenuity as far away from Perseverance as possible whilst still maintaining up/downlink capabilities. Imagine if your opportunistic "Hold my beer and watch this" technology demonstrator managed to go up ok but then crater in on your $quillions nuclear rover during it's first flight, thereby wrecking the entire mission.

  5. Gene Cash Silver badge

    Idea...

    So when Perseverance has dusty solar cells, I wonder if it's possible to hover over them to clean them off.

    Probably not, because of the collision & damage risk.

    1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
      Headmaster

      Re: Idea...

      Electrostatics sticking the dust to the panels and the lack of much actual gas in the Martian atmosphere for the blades to get purchase on and blow downwards are also rather critical factors here...

      1. genghis_uk

        Re: Idea...

        There must be at least the weight of the helicopter blowing down or it wouldn't take off.

        I assume the blades spin a lot faster to make up for the lack of atmosphere?

    2. Cuddles Silver badge

      Re: Idea...

      As noted in TFA, Perseverance doesn't have any solar panels; it's nuclear powered.

  6. bazza Silver badge

    Things We're Used to Seeing...

    ... But still amazed by: designed for 5 flights, got 28 in the log book.

    There's fewer and fewer refuges in which what one might call "proper engineering" is still done, but the space exploration programme is still one of them.

    I know that the exploration of Mars has in recent times been "Agile" in the sense that one mission has lead to another better mission, but they're not making many mistakes.

  7. ComputerSays_noAbsolutelyNo Silver badge
    Alien

    What better way to celebrate Star Wars day than taking a day off

    May the force be with, you little flying robot.

  8. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

    Solar vs RTG...

    Would it have made more sense to use RTG for Ingenuity's power as well? Heat and electricity. Is there more mass in the RTG system than equivalent power solar + batteries? Hell I'm sure NASA thought this all through, but as a layman I find the specific choices intriguing.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Solar vs RTG...

      I think an RTG for Ingenuity would weigh as much as Ingenuity itself does right now.

      Maybe now they've proved they can fly out there, the next such craft could/would likely be designed around an RTG. But there could still be power/weight ratio issues since it takes more energy to fly than it does to trundle.

      1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

        Re: Solar vs RTG...

        Of course. I wasn't sure how much the RTG weighs. Probably far too much to be feasible with current tech and designs, but perhaps now they've shown stuff can fly on Mars, it might drive an effort to significantly reduce the mass. Efforts that would be useful for trundlebots as well. Less RTG mass = more science mass.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Solar vs RTG...

          From what I've seen, the smallest one is currently around 2kg, but the ones big enough to power Perseverance are more like 40kg.

          Ingenuity also weighs about 2kg in total.

          The problem is how much power RPGs can supply in one go. They're fine for keeping instruments alive or trundling gently across the landscape with a steady power requirement, but spinning propellers at high rpm in a thin atmosphere to get lift demands more.

          Of course, future iterations of Ingenuity might contain more instruments and be much bigger, so would be heavier pro rata and require even more power to get lift.

          It'll be interesting to see how it all develops.

  9. Nifty Silver badge

    Heater kicks in at -15 deg C?

    I have a WiFi temperature sensor in the freezer, it's usually hovering at around -18 deg C. I really wasn't sure if this cheap consumer device would function at that temperature, anyway it's in a sealed food bag and has worked for about 18 months. Even more surprising is that the standard AA Eneloop type rechargeable batteries had been in there for a year before I warmed then up back to room temp and recharged them 'just in case'.

    So why does Ingenuity's heater have to kick in at such a high temperature? Surely space-hardened hardware and batteries can work at much lower temperatures?

    1. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

      Re: Heater kicks in at -15 deg C?

      A/ COTS kit, not space-hardened

      B/ They're dropping it to -40⁰C. They must have heard you ;)

    2. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
      Black Helicopters

      Re: Heater kicks in at -15 deg C?

      Safety margins. If your freezer thermometer stops working, you can easily replace it. Ingenuity they wanted to try out as much stuff as possible.

      Now they have a decent amount of data about flight profiles etc, they can push the envelope a bit and see how cold she gets before failing (or not failing, as we all hope!)

      1. Nifty Silver badge

        Re: Heater kicks in at -15 deg C?

        If the low temperature does cause a failure or lock-up, is there any way out of that stall?

  10. Elledan

    Should have a nuclear drone carrier

    Imagine if Perseverance could drive to place itself over Ingenuity and pick it up to store it inside a drone-bay for safe keeping and perhaps maintenance. As an RTG-powered rover, it is massive enough that such luxuries (i.e. weight & complexity additions) can be justified. Especially if it's part of the scientific mission.

    Now that Ingenuity has proven what such devices are capable of on Mars, it may be that the next nuclear-powered rover will carry multiple of such (improved) drones onboard, which can then land and take-off as required for the mission.

    Ingenuity is probably not long for this Universe at this point, but may herald a very exciting new chapter of Martian exploration.

    1. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

      Re: Should have a nuclear drone carrier

      This time round, Ingenuity was nothing more than a technology demonstrator - a tryout to see if the concept of controlled flight on Mars was feasible. Now they know this, who knows what they'll put together next time to build on this concept!

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Should have a nuclear drone carrier

      "As an RTG-powered rover, it is massive enough that such luxuries (i.e. weight & complexity additions) can be justified."

      Other consideration come in to play before getting this larger, heavier nuclear powered tank on to the Martian surface. Larger payload, more fuel, bigger parachutes, bigger, heavier more powerful "skycrane"also needing more fuel, etc.

      Of course, all those points could be moot if Musk and Starship get there before NASA gets it's next Mars lander out of the planning stages :-)

  11. FlamingDeath Silver badge

    How long until the first armed conflict on Mars?

    We need to get more hoomams there to see

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