In a first, NASA tests 'next-gen' Mars helicopters designs on two different planets | WATCH
NASA's Ingenuity Mars Helicopter set new altitude and airspeed records on the Red Planet during experimental flight testing. Meanwhile, the US space agency also tested carbon fiber rotor blades, which it believes could enable bigger, more capable Mars helicopters.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) recently released a video showing carbon fiber rotor blades "that could be used with the next-generation of Mars helicopters". The testing of the pair of Mars helicopter rotor blades was held just a day before NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter made a record-breaking flight on the Red Planet.
"Longer and stronger than those used on the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter, the carbon-fiber blades reached near-supersonic speeds during testing," the space agency said.
After the completion of the test, Tyler Del Sesto, Sample Recovery Helicopter deputy test conductor at JPL, said, "These more efficient blades are now more than a hypothetical exercise. They are ready to fly."
The US space agency believes that these blades could enable bigger, more capable Mars helicopters. "The challenge is, as the blade tips approach supersonic speeds, vibration-causing turbulence can quickly get out of hand," it added.
Earth and Mars 'home to testing future aircraft designs'
While the “next-generation carbon fiber rotor blades" were tested on Earth, Ingenuity, the Mars helicopter, flew its 59th flight across the Martian surface, reaching an altitude of 66 feet (20 meters) on September 16. This marked its highest flight ever.
A video shared by NASA JPL on X shows two perspectives of the 59th flight of NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter. "Video on the left was captured by the Mastcam-Z on NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover; the black-and-white video on the right was taken by Ingenuity’s downward-pointing Navcam," NASA said.
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"The agency’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter has achieved new altitude and airspeed records on the Red Planet in the name of experimental flight testing," NASA said.
According to NASA, Ingenuity was originally slated to fly no more than five times. "With its first flight entering the mission logbook more than two-and-a-half years ago, the helicopter has exceeded its planned 30-day mission by 32 times and has flown 66 times," it added.
Referring to this milestone achieved by Ingenuity helicopter on Mars and the testing of carbon fiber rotor blades on Earth, NASA said, "For the first time in history, two planets have been home to testing future aircraft designs."
"Our next-generation Mars helicopter testing has literally had the best of both worlds," Teddy Tzanetos, Ingenuity’s project manager and manager for the Mars Sample Recovery Helicopters, was quoted by a report published by the NASA JPL as saying.
"Here on Earth, you have all the instrumentation and hands-on immediacy you could hope for while testing new aircraft components. On Mars, you have the real off-world conditions you could never truly re-create here on Earth." That includes a whisper-thin atmosphere and significantly less gravity than on Earth, the NASA report said.
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