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Author: TriSec    Date: 04/24/2021 12:31:00

Good Morning.

It's been a whirwind week in places other than this dumb ol' earth.

Ever the wags, Flightradar24 has posted the first flight tracking from another planet.


NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter successfully completed its second Mars flight on April 22 – the 18th sol, or Martian day, of its experimental flight test window. Lasting 51.9 seconds, the flight added several new challenges to the first, which took place on April 19, including a higher maximum altitude, longer duration, and sideways movement.

“So far, the engineering telemetry we have received and analyzed tell us that the flight met expectations and our prior computer modeling has been accurate,” said Bob Balaram, chief engineer for the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. “We have two flights of Mars under our belts, which means that there is still a lot to learn during this month of Ingenuity.”

For this second flight test at “Wright Brothers Field,” Ingenuity took off again at 5:33 a.m. EDT (2:33 a.m. PDT), or 12:33 p.m. local Mars time. But where Flight One topped out at 10 feet (3 meters) above the surface, Ingenuity climbed to 16 feet (5 meters) this time. After the helicopter hovered briefly, its flight control system performed a slight (5-degree) tilt, allowing some of the thrust from the counter-rotating rotors to accelerate the craft sideways for 7 feet (2 meters).

“The helicopter came to a stop, hovered in place, and made turns to point its camera in different directions,” said Håvard Grip, Ingenuity’s chief pilot at JPL. “Then it headed back to the center of the airfield to land. It sounds simple, but there are many unknowns regarding how to fly a helicopter on Mars. That’s why we’re here – to make these unknowns known.”

Operating an aircraft in a controlled manner at Mars is far more difficult than flying one on Earth. Even though gravity on Mars is about one third that of Earth’s, the helicopter must fly with the assistance of an atmosphere with only about 1% of the density at Earth’s surface. Each second of each flight provides an abundance of Mars in-flight data for comparison to the modeling, simulations, and tests performed back here on Earth. And NASA also gains its first practical experience operating a rotorcraft remotely at Mars. These datasets will prove invaluable for potential future Mars missions that could enlist next-generation helicopters to add an aerial dimension to their explorations.

I'm no rotorcraft guy, but as I posted elsewhere earlier in the week, I am actually amazed that there's enough air on the red planet to support rotorcraft flight. Even here on Earth, it ain't easy.

Meanwhile, just a few hundred miles overhead, the Space X dragon has docked with the International Space Station. It's now the third time the capsule has been launched with "VIP Cargo" aboard, and the second time they've reached the ISS. Yesterday's flight was particularly notable because this was the first full re-use of the system. The capsule and launch vehicle have been on-orbit before.

A SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft — carrying four astronauts from three countries — docked with the International Space Station early Saturday morning ET, beginning the crew's six-month stay in space.

This mission, dubbed Crew-2, marks the third-ever crewed flight for Elon Musk's company and the first to make use of a previously flown, privately-owned rocket booster and spacecraft.

The astronauts took off from Kennedy Space Center in Florida Friday morning and spent nearly 24 hours soaring through orbit at more than 17,000 miles per hour, as their Crew Dragon spacecraft maneuvered toward the ISS, which orbits about 250 miles above Earth.
On Saturday morning, the capsule slowly aligned itself and moved in to dock directly with one of the space station's ports.

The crew consists of NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, Thomas Pesquet of the European Space Agency, and Akihiko Hoshide with Japan's JAXA space agency.

The mission is a hallmark in SpaceX's efforts to reuse spacefaring hardware in order to drive down the cost of spaceflight. Both the Crew Dragon capsule, named "Endeavour," and the Falcon 9 rocket that lofted it into orbit have flown in space before.

Though the company has re-flown boosters and spacecraft dozens of times on satellite and cargo launches over the past several years, this marks the first time the company has reused hardware for a crewed mission.

Progress in space is often measured on the order of decades, not in terms of months or years. The successes referenced have been in the works for a very long time.

But you know how the peculiar institution called "politics" works. These events come around the 90-day mark of the Biden presidency. While he had absolutely nothing to do with either of these things - it sure does feel like a well-timed return to SCIENCE as a guiding principle of the United States. Perhaps this administration will lay some new groundwork so a future society can be more advanced than today.

(Sun Ra and his Arkestra, Concert for the Comet Kohoutek. You will never find a more experimental jazz album. Still trying to wrap my head around it after decades of listening.)


2 comments (Latest Comment: 04/25/2021 01:15:38 by TriSec)
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