Watch NASA's Ingenuity helicopter fly on Mars
5:23

Watch NASA's Ingenuity helicopter fly on Mars

Science
Speaker 1: Humans just flew a helicopter on Mars and we've got pictures to prove it. After more than six years of development, a long flight to Mars and some nervewracking delays, NASA has finally launched and landed its ingenuity helicopter Speaker 2: Imeter data. [00:00:30] Concurrent that ingenuity has performed its first light, the first light of a per aircraft in another planet. Speaker 1: This is the first Howard and controlled flight we've ever completed on another planet. And NASA had to overcome some pretty impossible odds to do it. In fact, there was a chance this flight might not have happened at all during a final high speed test of the rotors, the helicopters system, aborted and NASA [00:01:00] had to beam up a software update from earth, but ingenuity finally took to the Martian skies and thanks to cameras on board, the helicopter and on the perseverance Rover, we got an amazing view, a black and white camera on the bottom of the helicopter gave us shots looking down on the Martian surface while a color camera gave us a view of the horizon, but it wasn't just the cameras on ingenuity. Percy, the Rover was watching the whole thing. There are two mask cams on perseverance that sit [00:01:30] about two meters or six feet off the ground. Speaker 1: These cameras recorded both a close up and wide angle view of the flight. As ingenuity spun up its rotor blades lifted into the air and then slowly landed back down. Ingenuity had to conserve battery power after its flight. So NASA was only able to downlink a couple of black and white images shot by the chopper itself. But the ma cam Z system recorded the flight in full color. Giving us an awesome view. Ingenuity flight was built [00:02:00] as a technology demonstration, part of the large, a perseverance Rover mission, which touched down on Mars on February 18th. The Rover is there to find signs of ancient life on the red planet. And it's already achieved a number of firsts sending back the first full color video of a Mars landing and the first audio from the planet's surface. Speaker 1: But after per of mailed the landing, it was time for ingenuity moment in the spotlight. The helicopter traveled [00:02:30] to Mars tucked under the belly of the Rover, which is about the size of a compact car. Ingenuity might be a featherweight compared to Papa, Percy, but it's also a seriously impressive piece of machinery. It's completely autonomous and self-charging with two pairs of four foot wide rotor blades that counter rotate to lift off in the marsh and atmosphere. The atmosphere on Mars is 1% the density of the atmosphere on earth, meaning there's not much for the rotor blades to push against, [00:03:00] to gain lift. And that was a huge challenge for the NASA engineers. That's why the blades had to be so wide. They need to spin it more than 2,500 RPM to actually lift the helicopter off the ground. Ingenuity also needed to be incredibly light the entire body, including the solar panel, batteries, computers, rotor blades, and landing gear had to come in at 1800 grams or less than four pounds. Speaker 1: According to the project lead for ingenuity, [00:03:30] Mimi young, that involved a lot of iterating and shaving off unnecessary mass ounce by ounce. But even with all those weight concerns, NASA did hide one little Easter egg on ingenuity, a piece of the Wright brothers plane, kitty Hawk, which took the first powered controlled flight on earth in 1903. Now more than a century after the first flight on our planet, humans have done the same thing with a four pound helicopter flying it El on [00:04:00] another planet, more than a hundred million miles away to get to this point, ingenuity had to survive a seven month journey through space followed by seven minutes of terror as its Rover descended to the Martian surface. Perseverance had to blast off the helicopters, protective shield and gently place it on the Rocky surface of Mars. The helicopter had to survive its first subzero night, charge up its batteries by itself using its solar panels and then spin up its rotor blades [00:04:30] for the first time to make sure they actually worked on Mars. Speaker 1: And despite a couple of technical difficulties, it passed with flying colors. NASA only had a relatively small window to test flights, drone, 30 souls or Martian days, which is about equivalent to 31 earth days. They played it pretty safe with this first flight, but now they have the chance to do four more flights going higher and further and potentially even recording sound and all of these flights gonna bring in more data [00:05:00] and more images for the world to see. And that's the real potential of ingenuity. It's proof that we can bring an aerial dimension to our exploration of new worlds. And who knows maybe one day we'll be sending little drones to scout around new planets and to venture, to places that humans can't reach like the ride brothers and kitty Hawk. This is just the first lift off, but it's the start of, so are much more.

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