The Ingenuity helicopter has surprised everyone with the marks it has achieved in its third flight performed this April 25th in the atmosphere of the red planet.
Image of the Ingenuity helicopter in flight, image taken by the Perseverance rover. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.
In this third flight it managed to reach speeds and distances beyond what they had previously demonstrated, even further than the tests performed on Earth. The small helicopter took off from the surface of Mars at 12:33 pm local time on Mars (8:31 GMT) and reached a height of 5 m and a displacement of 50 m, reaching a speed of 2 m per second, so this flight had a duration of 80 seconds.
In its second flight the helicopter had already reached this height, but it only made a lateral movement during an exercise that lasted almost 52 seconds. So in this third test they added more challenges with respect to the previous one, in terms of speed and distance traveled.
The Third Color Image Taken by Ingenuity. Image Credit: NASA/JPL.
These results are more than surprising, since it has managed to exceed expectations, surpassing the marks set in its first flights, with which it is expected to stretch the limits of this aircraft and to establish the critical conditions that allow the incorporation of this type of aerial vehicle to complement future missions to Mars.
This flight has not only served to test the limits of the small aircraft, but also to evaluate onboard image acquisition and processing. A black and white navigation camera tracks the surface features just below the aircraft, these images are used by the flight computer to control the speed, because if it flies too fast the flight algorithm cannot track the images. This test has been used to evaluate the camera algorithm traveling a long distance since on earth the instruments are tested in a vacuum chamber that simulates the thin atmosphere of mars, and in this vacuum chamber there is barely room for the helicopter to move about half a meter in any direction, so there was uncertainty as to whether the camera would track the ground as designed while traveling a long distance at high speed.
Black and White Image From Ingenuity's Third Flight. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.
With this third test flight the team of ground engineers has a lot of information to analyze to plan in the coming days what will be the fourth flight of the Ingenuity helicopter, there is still much to learn about how to fly an aircraft on Mars, although so far it has only made movements that seem simple, doing it remotely on Mars is a great feat. Let's hope to continue learning about new flight records on Mars accompanied by incredible photographs of the red planet.
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