A little Ingenuity, a big accomplishment

Shown in this screen grab from a video, the small “Ingenuity” rotorcraft made history, hovering above Jezero Crater, demonstrating that powered, controlled flight on another planet is possible. The video including this image was captured by the Perseverance rover parked nearby. Image Credit: NASA/JPL

April 19, 2021 — NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter became the first aircraft in history to make a powered, controlled flight on another planet. The Ingenuity team at the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California confirmed the flight succeeded after receiving data from the helicopter via NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover at 6:46 a.m. EDT (3:46 a.m. PDT).

A tight crop from a video frame showing the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter during its historic first flight on Mars. The video including this image was captured by the Perseverance rover parked nearby. Image Credit: NASA/JPL

The solar-powered helicopter first became airborne at 3:34 a.m. EDT (12:34 a.m. PDT) – 12:33 Local Mean Solar Time (Mars time) – a time the Ingenuity team determined would have optimal energy and flight conditions. Altimeter data indicate Ingenuity climbed to its prescribed maximum altitude of 10 feet (3 meters) and maintained a stable hover for 30 seconds. It then descended, touching back down on the surface of Mars after logging a total of 39.1 seconds of flight.

For more on the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter technology demonstration, click here!

As Artemis moves forward, NASA picks SpaceX Human Lunar Lander

Illustration of SpaceX Starship human lander design that will carry NASA astronauts to the Moon’s surface during the Artemis mission. Credit: SpaceX

April 16, 2021 — NASA is getting ready to send astronauts to explore more of the Moon as part of the Artemis program, and the agency has selected SpaceX to continue development of the first commercial human lander that will safely carry the next two American astronauts to the lunar surface. At least one of those astronauts will make history as the first woman on the Moon. Another goal of the Artemis program includes landing the first person of color on the lunar surface.

The agency’s powerful Space Launch System rocket will launch four astronauts aboard the Orion spacecraft for their multi-day journey to lunar orbit. There, two crew members will transfer to the SpaceX human landing system (HLS) for the final leg of their journey to the surface of the Moon. After approximately a week exploring the surface, they will board the lander for their short trip back to orbit where they will return to Orion and their colleagues before heading back to Earth.

“With this award, NASA and our partners will complete the first crewed demonstration mission to the surface of the Moon in the 21st century as the agency takes a step forward for women’s equality and long-term deep space exploration,” said Kathy Lueders, NASA’s associate administrator for Human Explorations and Operations Mission Directorate. “This critical step puts humanity on a path to sustainable lunar exploration and keeps our eyes on missions farther into the solar system, including Mars.”

“This is an exciting time for NASA and especially the Artemis team,” said Lisa Watson-Morgan, program manager for HLS at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. “During the Apollo program, we proved that it is possible to do the seemingly impossible: land humans on the Moon. By taking a collaborative approach in working with industry while leveraging NASA’s proven technical expertise and capabilities, we will return American astronauts to the Moon’s surface once again, this time to explore new areas for longer periods of time.”

SpaceX’s HLS Starship, designed to land on the Moon, leans on the company’s tested Raptor engines and flight heritage of the Falcon and Dragon vehicles. Starship includes a spacious cabin and two airlocks for astronaut moonwalks. The Starship architecture is intended to evolve to a fully reusable launch and landing system designed for travel to the Moon, Mars, and other destinations.

April 12 Membership Meeting

The April 12, 2021 membership meeting of the Cuyahoga Astronomical Association (CAA) will take place via the Zoom online service beginning at 7:30 p.m.

The evening’s speaker will be Joe Kolecki, retired NASA Scientist, speaking on “Physics and Experience, it’s all relative!” Kokecki said, “I am mostly going to focus on observable effects. The merging of physics and geometry will be approached from the perspective that scientific facts arise from measurement (metros, Gk.) and that time and space measurements are interconnected in relativity through the speed of light. Thus united, time and space can be dealt with as geometry.” An aerospace engineer, he retired from NASA in 2006. His work included developing orbital flight systems for generating and processing electrical power in space. Kokecki has worked in the United States and abroad on flight systems for Earth orbit and for interplanetary exploration. He also identified and developed mitigation strategies for electrostatic charging of vehicles and astronauts moving about and working of the surface of Mars. His interest in relativity came about early in life when he discovered an article on Einstein and set out to see what his work was all about. Relativity became a life-long passion and he has written books on the mathematics involved with the theory.

Attendees may join the Zoom meeting beginning at 7:20 p.m. the nights of CAA scheduled meetings and meetings begin at 7:30.

The evening will begin with introductions and the featured speaker followed by the monthly membership business meeting, typically concluding at about 9 p.m.. Guest attendees are welcome.

To attend:

You can either “Phone in” or watch and participate via “Zoom Video”.

Phone In:  Just dial:  1-312-626-6799  (Chicago number)

You will be required to enter our meeting number:  954 8268 6049

Zoom Video with video and audio, on your web browser. (No camera required)
https://zoom.us/j/95482686049

Or download the desktop application from: https://zoom.us/download#client_4meeting

Updated: Mars helicopter flight coming soon…

NASA’s Ingenuity Mars helicopter is seen in a close-up taken by Mastcam-Z, a pair of zoomable cameras aboard the Perseverance rover. This image was taken on April 5, 2021, the 45th Martian day, or sol, of the mission.
Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU

UPDATE APRIL 17: NASA is targeting no earlier than Monday, April 19, for the first flight of its Ingenuity Mars Helicopter at approximately 3:30 a.m. EDT (12:30 a.m. PDT).

Data from the first flight will return to Earth a few hours following the autonomous flight. A livestream will begin at 6:15 a.m. EDT (3:15 a.m. PDT), as the helicopter team prepares to receive the data downlink in the Space Flight Operations Facility at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). Watch on NASA Television, the agency app, website, and social media platforms, including YouTube and Facebook.

UPDATE: Based on data from the Ingenuity Mars helicopter that arrived late Friday night, NASA has chosen to reschedule the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter’s first experimental flight to no earlier than April 14. CLICK HERE for the full story.

A livestream confirming Ingenuity’s first flight is targeted to begin around 3:30 a.m. EDT Monday, April 12, on NASA Television, the NASA app, and the agency’s website, and will livestream on multiple agency social media platforms, including the JPL YouTube and Facebook channels. When it happens it will be the first flight of an aircraft operated on another planet.