NASA Tests its Next-Generation Mars Helicopter Blades

Whereas NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter continues to interrupt information for each airspeed and altitude whereas it explores Jezero Crater on the Crimson Planet, NASA engineers again on Earth are arduous at work testing carbon fiber blades for next-generation Mars helicopters that would exceed the efficiency of Ingenuity on future missions to Mars, particularly with the deliberate Mars Pattern Return mission that NASA hopes to perform someday within the 2030s.

“Our next-generation Mars helicopter testing has actually had the very best of each worlds,” Teddy Tzanetos, who’s the mission supervisor for Ingenuity and supervisor for the Mars Pattern Restoration Helicopters, stated in an official NASA assertion. “Right here on Earth, you have got all of the instrumentation and hands-on immediacy you would hope for whereas testing new plane parts. On Mars, you have got the true off-world circumstances you would by no means actually re-create right here on Earth.”

These off-world circumstances on Mars embody floor atmospheric stress and floor gravity that’s lower than one % and one-third of Earth’s floor, respectively. It’s due to this considerably decreased floor stress that Ingenuity’s rotations per minute (rpm) are between 2,400 to 2,900 rpm to attain flight on the Crimson Planet. That is considerably greater than on Earth, as helicopters sometimes solely want 500 to 600 rpm to attain flight.

The Ingenuity Mars Helicopter incorporates 4 carbon fiber blades organized into two counter-rotating rotors, that means that rotate reverse to one another, spanning 1.2-meters (4-feet) throughout with the aforementioned rotating pace of between 2,400 to 2,900 rpm (rotations per minute). Moreover, Ingenuity additionally weighs in at roughly 1.8 kilograms (4 kilos) on Earth, however with Mars having roughly one-third the gravity Ingenuity weighs solely 0.68 kilograms (1.5 kilos) on the floor of the Crimson Planet.

April 2021 video discussing the design and improvement of Ingenuity.

For the next-generation Mars helicopters, NASA engineers at Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena are setting up blades which can be barely greater than 10 centimeters (4 inches) longer than Ingenuity’s blades, together with exhibiting a separate design and elevated power, as effectively.

“We spun our blades as much as 3,500 rpm, which is 750 revolutions per minute quicker than the Ingenuity blades have gone,” Tyler Del Sesto, who’s the Pattern Restoration Helicopter deputy check conductor at JPL, stated in an official NASA assertion. “These extra environment friendly blades are actually greater than a hypothetical train. They’re able to fly.”

One purpose of those next-generation Mars helicopters might be on the joint NASA-ESA Mars Pattern Return mission slated to happen someday within the 2030s. This mission will embody three elements: pattern assortment, pattern retrieval, and a return mission. It’s the pattern retrieval mission that can contain probably the most tools, together with two Ingenuity-class helicopters tasked with amassing samples with a robotic arm which can be at present being positioned on the floor of Mars in Jezero Crater by NASA’s Perseverance rover.

These pattern retrieval helicopters will fluctuate in design from Ingenuity in that they’re deliberate to have a set of 4 wheels used to drive to the pattern upon touchdown a couple of meters from them. Upon retrieval, the helicopters will fly to the Pattern Retrieval Lander (SRL), which can then load the samples into the Mars Ascent Car (MAV), which can launch the samples to low Martian orbit the place they’ll return to Earth for evaluation. Presently, Perseverance has collected a complete of 23 samples with the purpose of amassing 38 samples ultimately.

Artist illustration of the varied parts that can comprise the Mars Pattern Return mission, which is slated for the 2030s. These parts embody NASA’s Perseverance rover (decrease left, and at present on Mars), Pattern Retrieval Lander (far proper), two Ingenuity-class helicopters, Mars Ascent Car, and the Earth Return Orbiter. (Credit score: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

As famous, Ingenuity continues to interrupt information for each altitude and pace because it has accomplished a complete of 66 flights as of this writing, which far exceeds the unique plan of 5 flights over the course of a 30-day mission that started on April 19, 2021. To date, Ingenuity has achieved a most horizontal distance of 704 meters (2,309.71 toes), which it achieved on its 25th flight on April 3, 2022, and a most altitude of 24 meters (78.7 toes), which it achieved on its 61st flight on October 5, 2023.

How will these next-generation Mars helicopters assist enhance the science and engineering carried out on the Crimson Planet within the coming years and many years? Solely time will inform, and this is the reason we science!

As all the time, hold doing science & hold trying up!

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