NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter Transitions Into Stationary Testbed

On April 16th NASA announced the formal end to Ingenuity’s days as the first ever Martian helicopter, following its 72nd and final flight mission in January. This flight ended with a rough landing during which the helicopter’s blades got damaged and separated, leaving the plucky flying machine with its wings clipped. During the final meet-up of the Mars Helicopter Team there was cake, but none for Ingenuity as its latest data set was reviewed by the team from 304 million kilometers away. This data confirms the latest software patch allows it to work stand-alone as a data collection platform.

With these latest software changes, Ingenuity will wake up daily, activate its computers and perform a self-check of all its components before collecting sensor data and images. The main goal of this is to collect long-term performance data on the helicopter’s systems, with enough onboard memory to allow for measurements to be stored for around 20 years. This means that although the Perseverance rover will have to trundle on without its flying mission buddy, one day in the future another rover, helicopter or primate will presumably drop by to either communicate with Ingenuity if it’s still alive, or harvest its memory unit for data retrieval.

Thanks to [Mark Stevens] for the tip.

NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter Completes 50th Flight

While NASA’s Perseverance rover brought an array of impressive scientific equipment to the surface of Mars, certainly its most famous payload is the stowaway helicopter Ingenuity. Despite being little more than a restricted-budget experiment using essentially only off-the-shelf components that you can find in your smartphone and e-waste drawer, the tenacious drone managed to complete its fiftieth flight on April 13 — just days before the two year anniversary of its first flight, which took place on April 19th of 2021.

Engineers hoped that Ingenuity would be able to show that a solar-powered drone could function in the extremely thin atmosphere of Mars, but the experiment ended up wildly exceeding expectations.  No longer a simple technology demonstrator, the helicopter has become an integral part of Perseverance’s operations. Through its exploratory flights Ingenuity can scout ahead, picking the best spots for the much slower rover, with rough terrain only becoming a concern when it’s time to land.

Since leaving the relatively flat Jezero Crater floor on January 19th of 2023, Ingenuity has had to contend with significantly harsher terrain. Thanks to upgraded navigation firmware the drone is better to determine safe landing locations, but each flight remains a white-knuckle event. This is also true for each morning’s wake-up call. Although the rover is powered and heated continuously due to its nuclear power source, Ingenuity goes into standby mode overnight, after which it must re-establish its communication with the rover.

Though there’s no telling what the future may hold for Ingenuity, one thing is certain — its incredible success will shape upcoming missions. NASA is already looking at larger, more capable drones to be sent on future missions, which stand to help us explore the Red Planet planet faster than ever. Not a bad for a flying smartphone.

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The Wright Stuff: First Powered Flight On Mars Is A Success

When you stop to think about the history of flight, it really is amazing that the first successful flight the Wright brothers made on a North Carolina beach to Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the Moon spanned a mere 66 years. That we were able to understand and apply the principles of aerodynamics well enough to advance from delicate wood and canvas structures to rockets powerful enough to escape from the gravity well that had trapped us for eons is a powerful testament to human ingenuity and the drive to explore.

Ingenuity has again won the day in the history of flight, this time literally as the namesake helicopter that tagged along on the Mars 2020 mission has successfully flown over the Red Planet. The flight lasted a mere 40 seconds, but proved that controlled, powered flight is possible on Mars, a planet with an atmosphere that’s as thin as the air is at 100,000 feet (30 km) above sea level on Earth. It’s an historic accomplishment, and the engineering behind it is worth a deeper look.

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Hackaday Podcast 083: Soooo Many Custom Peripherals, Leaving Bluetooth Footprints, And A Twirlybird On Mars

Hackaday editors Mike Szczys and Elliot Williams ogle the greatest hacks from the past 168 hours. Did you know that Mars Rover didn’t get launched into space all alone? Nestled in it’s underbelly is a two-prop helicopter that’s a fascinating study in engineering for a different world. Fingerprinting audio files isn’t a special trick reserved for Shazam, you can do it just as easily with an ESP32. A flaw in the way Bluetooth COVID tracing frameworks chirp out their anonymized hashes means they’re not as perfectly anonymized as planned. And you’re going to love these cool ways to misuse items from those massive parts catalogs.

Take a look at the links below if you want to follow along, and as always, tell us what you think about this episode in the comments!

Take a look at the links below if you want to follow along, and as always, tell us what you think about this episode in the comments!

Direct download (60 MB or so.)

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An Up-Close Look At The First Martian Helicopter

The news was recently abuzz with stories of how the Mars 2020 mission, which launched from Cape Canaveral at the end of July, had done something that no other spacecraft had done before: it had successfully charged the batteries aboard a tiny helicopter that is hitching a ride in the belly of the Mars 2020 rover, Perseverance.

Although the helicopter, aptly named Ingenuity, is only a technology demonstrator, and flight operations will occupy but a small fraction of the time Mars 2020 is devoting to its science missions, it has still understandably captured the popular imagination. This will be humanity’s first attempt at controlled, powered flight on another planet, after all, and that alone is enough to spur intense interest in what amounts to a side-project for NASA. So here’s a closer look at Ingenuity, and what it takes to build a helicopter that will explore another world.

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