back to article NASA's 161-second helicopter tour of Martian terrain

On Friday NASA released footage of the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter flying further and faster than ever before. The film recorded during Ingenuity's 25th flight on April 8 when it flew 704 meters at up to 5.5 meters per second. In the sped-up footage shown below, the vehicle climbs to 10 meters, heads southwest, accelerates to …

  1. mwcer

    One wonders why the solar panels were mounted above the rotors rather than below. If it had them below, the rotor blast would take care of clearing the panels of dust.

    1. claimed

      You probably don't want to whack 'air' onto a surface attached to the chopper due to newtons 3rd law.

      Might also be scratch risk as dust is sharp on Mars, but I reckon point 1 is why

      1. NoneSuch Silver badge
        Joke

        Hmmm...

        I thought Microsoft Flight Simulator would be a little more upmarket and have better graphics.

      2. karlkarl Silver badge

        Agreed but I wonder why it still works in the situation described in this engineering diagram.

        https://i.imgur.com/iHethlb.png

    2. Dave559 Silver badge

      Dust

      Sounds like it might be a good idea to include "windscreen wipers" in a version 2 helicopter, to avoid this particular dust problem?

  2. Zenubi

    Outside our original design limits

    " We are now operating far outside our original design limits,"

    Amazing to say that this is almost standard practice for so many rovers and probes.

    I am bowing in JPL's and NASA's general direction.

    1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

      Re: Outside our original design limits

      Me too. I'm always in awe of their skills.

      1. verisimi

        Re: Outside our original design limits

        Personally, I wasn't impressed with the graphics.

    2. Dinanziame Silver badge

      Re: Outside our original design limits

      I think they deliberately give gross underestimates of the reliability — considering so many things can go wrong, each component is designed to last for years

      1. claimed

        Re: Outside our original design limits

        I think its just that to be *sure* something will survive 'x', the statistical bell curve of how long it will really last is by definition going to be pretty far to the right.

        Example: design me a pane of glass that the average man can hit with a hammer 3 times and it not break....

        How many hits do you think such a pane of glass would withstand? Closer to 5 or closer to 500?

        Still impressive either way when you're only aiming for 3, well done NASA

        1. MrNigel

          Re: Outside our original design limits

          Ask Elon Musk.....

  3. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

    Is that all the data they could get back? Because I could spare two minutes to watch that in real time.

  4. heyrick Silver badge
    Mushroom

    which then relay that data back to Earth at between 500Kb/s to around 3Mb/s

    Fuchsache - that's almost as fast as my firmly terrestrial (rural) broadband.

    Can't get my head around them getting data from another freaking planet as fast as I get Netflix in a western country.

    Icon - because my brain just did that.

    1. My-Handle Silver badge

      Re: which then relay that data back to Earth at between 500Kb/s to around 3Mb/s

      Same here, I only get 2Mbps at home. Telecoms infrastructure in rural Northern Ireland is a right pain in Uranus.

    2. gotes

      Re: which then relay that data back to Earth at between 500Kb/s to around 3Mb/s

      Can't get my head around them getting data from another freaking planet as fast as I get Netflix in a western country.

      If it makes you feel any better, the latency's appalling.

    3. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: which then relay that data back to Earth at between 500Kb/s to around 3Mb/s

      RF is an amazingly effective medium for transmission when there is line of sight without hard obstructions.

      The Ionosphere doesn't even trouble the signal too much at the frequencies involved.

      Consider your own retina can receive the reflected sunlight from Mars without too much trouble if you point your eyes in the right direction. It's more effective with a telescope. So replace telescope with directional gain antenna, and you have your RF link with only noise to worry about.

    4. EVP

      Re: which then relay that data back to Earth at between 500Kb/s to around 3Mb/s

      The data rate is quite an achievement indeed.

      But why is video quality so bad, then? A 137 € mobile phone records better video. Uplink data rate is not a limiting factor. Maybe they just didn't have a better radiation/shock/$ENVIRONMENTAL_HOSTILITY-hardened image sensor available at the time of build. This is a genuine question, not to put NASA down.

      1. cray74

        Re: which then relay that data back to Earth at between 500Kb/s to around 3Mb/s

        But why is video quality so bad, then?

        Low wattage camera, processor, and communications systems, and limited bandwidth.

        From this link: "The end-of-life battery power is estimated at 35.75 Wh. Of this,10.73 Wh is reserved for improved battery life and emergencies, 21 Wh is reserved for night time heater use. This leaves 10 Wh for flight per day, assuming flight is done to still allow some charge."

        You have to fit any camera work into that budget.

        Video is also competing for bandwidth from the 17 cameras on Perseverance, plus the science payloads.

        1. EVP

          Re: which then relay that data back to Earth at between 500Kb/s to around 3Mb/s

          OK, saving energy is better explanation than lack of suitable sensor, and so is bandwidth sharing too. Thanks.

  5. Tom 7 Silver badge

    Glooming battery problem

    shirley!

  6. Salts

    And the obligatory gloat

    Linux runs on more planets!

  7. Rattlerjake

    So gullible

    To all of you mental midgets who actually believe this garbage - are you really so gullible that you think this is possible???? BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!

    1. bigphil9009

      Re: So gullible

      This is a site for people with brains and who understand science. Please leave immediately and return to your world where wonder and inquisitiveness don't exist.

    2. Michael H.F. Wilkinson

      Re: So gullible

      I suppose you also don't believe in lunar landings. Better not tell Buzz Aldrin, he might deck you, even at 92 years of age.

      1. verisimi

        Re: So gullible

        You must be referring to when Buzz punched someone who was asking him to swear on the bible that he really did walk on the moon:

        https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x4nlz0s

    3. mtp
      Unhappy

      Re: So gullible

      Don't feed the trolls

    4. Mozzie
      Joke

      Re: So gullible

      "The navigation camera turns off when the rotorcraft is within a meter of landing to keep dust off its navigation system."

      "The navigation camera turns off when the Area 51 engineer catches the Menkind Junior 4k Drone after the LiPo gives up two minutes into flight"

      FTFY

      I know the OP is telling the truth, I've seen Capricorn One too.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    BT Broadband

    "Perseverance can achieve transmission rates of up to 2Mb/s to its overhead orbiters, which then relay that data back to Earth at between 500Kb/s to around 3Mb/s, depending on the relative position between Mars and Earth."

    Broadband not provided by BT then - this would buffer on my home BT line.....

  9. Patched Out
    Joke

    Tiny

    Judging by the surface curvature displayed in the video, Mars must be a really small planet!

    Yes, this is a joke. See icon.

  10. Chris Evans

    FYI 5.5 meters per second is about 20 kilometers per hour

    Meters per second is not something I can relate to easily.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: FYI 5.5 meters per second is about 20 kilometers per hour

      What, you never walk or run anywhere?

      (Yes, I agree that km/h is a more helpful description for faster speeds, but on the scale of the flight we are talking about here, m/s is not entirely inappropriate for use in a report for the general public.)

    2. I am David Jones
      Headmaster

      Re: FYI 5.5 meters per second is about 20 kilometers per hour

      The rule of thumb I use is to double the value of m/s to get an approximation for mph.

      So 5.5 m/s is about 11mph.

      If you want, you can then add 10% for better accuracy, which would take you to 12 mph.

      Actual value is 12.3 mph.

  11. itsborken

    Wrong power source?

    Perhaps solar panels are not the correct power source for Mars on longer running missions? Ignoring weight, would a smaller nuclear core with a robot power hookup work better for the helicopter or perhaps multiple helicopters to provide redundancy of loss? Fly one while the other recharges, etc?

    1. cray74

      Re: Wrong power source?

      The MMRTG used by Curiosity and Perseverance generates 110 watts of electricity (at mission start) from a 45-kilogram assembly. While you said, "ignoring weight," 45kg is a significant chunk of a Mars mission's payload and well outside the boundaries of a 1.8-kilogram drone like Ingenuity, which also needs up to 350 watts.

      If I understood correctly that you were suggesting putting the RTG elsewhere (e.g., a ground-based carrier like the Perseverance rover), there are a couple of issues depending on how you arrange things:

      1. If you want the carrier to also do some science and trundle about then you've got hot competition for those 110 watts. Perseverance and Curiosity are golf cart-sized vehicles that can demand up to 900 watts during their peak activities.

      2. If you diminish the carrier's science role to support the flying drones then you're sharply limiting the scientific payload the mission. Perseverance carries 59kg of scientific gear, which is not something you're going to fit on modestly up-sized versions of Ingenuity.

      There's the additional issue that if you repeatedly land the flying drone(s) near or on the carrier then you need to convince engineers that it won't damage the carrier during a bad landing. A 350-watt motor spinning counter-rotating propellers will do a good job blending exterior equipment on a rover.

      That said, there's probably room for compromise in power budgets and activities. Now that Ingenuity has proven that a helicopter mini-drone can work on Mars, you can bet something like it will be tried again, but bigger and with some real scientific payload. That might call for a power sharing arrangement between rovers and aerial drones.

  12. Zanzibar Rastapopulous

    Nothing there...

    I'm kind of glad it's not 2 hours long...

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