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NASA’s Tiny Helicopter Snaps Its First Color Photo on Mars – Gizmodo

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Ingenuity’s first color photo taken on Mars.
Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Well, we’ve seen better photos of Mars, but this one’s special in that it was taken by NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter. Encouragingly, the craft managed to survive its first frigid night on Mars, bringing us one step closer to its inaugural flight.

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The low-resolution photo was taken on April 3 when Ingenuity was still standing beneath Perseverance rover. And in fact, you can see two of the rover’s wheels in the top corners of the image. This photo is an understated sneak preview of what’s to come; once the 4-pound (1.8-kilogram) rotorcraft takes flight, it will attempt to capture high-resolution color images of its surroundings at heights reaching 10 feet (3 meters).

In other good news, Ingenuity made it through its first night on Mars as a stand-alone system, according to a NASA statement. Ingenuity had been strapped to the bottom of the rover until this past weekend, and it withstood a 4-inch (10-centimeter) freefall to the surface. The helicopter was dropped to the surface on April 3rd and is now standing upright on its four outstretched legs.

Ingenuity, as photographed by Perseverance on April 4.

Ingenuity, as photographed by Perseverance on April 4.
Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech

That Ingenuity managed to survive its first night on Mars is a major relief. Temperatures in Jezero Crater can drop to –130 degrees Fahrenheit (90 degrees Celsius) at night. Sensitive electronic components and batteries can get badly damaged at these temperatures. No longer attached to Perseverance, the helicopter will now have to power its heater from its own battery, which it will do by drawing energy from its solar panels.

“No more free power,” wrote Bob Balaram, chief engineer for the Mars Helicopter Project at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in an article written for NASA.

In a statement, MiMi Aung, Ingenuity project manager at NASA’s JPL, said “we now have confirmation that we have the right insulation, the right heaters, and enough energy in [Ingenuity’s] battery to survive the cold night, which is a big win for the team.”

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The rotorcraft will now monitor itself over the next several days to determine how well its thermal-control and power systems are faring and whether any adjustments will be necessary. Assuming everything is tickety-boo, the next major step will be to release the restraints that are currently binding the rotor blades together, followed by the testing of the blades and their associated motors. The team will also assess the vehicle’s autonomous navigation system, along with a device that will measure its orientation and angular rate during flight.

Perseverance, which relays messages from Ingenuity to mission controllers on Earth, will then relocate to Van Zyl Overlook—a sweet spot from which the rover can gaze upon and survey the 33-by-33-foot (10-by-10-meter) airfield onto which Ingenuity was deposited.

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We are inching steadily closer to this historic flight, in which Ingenuity—fingers firmly crossed—will become the first aerial vehicle to take to the skies on an alien world. NASA says the first flight could happen as early as this Sunday, April 11.

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The helicopter carries no scientific instrumentation, aside from its cameras. The Ingenuity mission is strictly meant as a tech demonstration, as NASA contemplates future missions involving more sophisticated aerial vehicles. NASA has set aside 30 sols, or Martian days, for these important tests.

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Inspiration4 Lift Off: SpaceX Launches World’s First All-Citizen Mission in Earth’s Orbit – Illinoisnewstoday.com

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Tampa, Florida (WFLA) — SpaceX made history on Wednesday night when it launched the world’s first all-civil mission to get going from the Space Coast, Florida.

The Inspiration4 mission took off from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center around 8:03 pm on Wednesday. The four crew members on the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft were launched onto a reusable Falcon 9 rocket and later separated from the spacecraft and landed on the drone.

The mission’s five-hour launch window began at 8:02 EST. The window was very large, as the crew was sent to orbit the Earth rather than the International Space Station, and therefore did not have such strict time constraints.

The crew is set to travel 350 miles above the surface of the Earth, about 100 miles higher than the International Space Station.

“This is important and historic, because it’s the best time humans have been in orbit since the Hubble Space Telescope mission,” said Benjireed, SpaceX’s manned spaceflight director.

(Photo provided by SpaceX)

The crew will spend three days in orbit to participate in research experiments on human health and performance. We hope that the results of our research will apply not only to future space flight, but also to human health here on Earth.

Inspiration4’s main goal is to provide and inspire support for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. They want to raise $ 200 million for St. Jude in a three-day mission.

According to SpaceX, each of the four members of the crew was chosen to represent the pillars of a mission of prosperity, generosity, hope and leadership. The Inspiration 4 crew and the pillars they represent are:

  • leadership: 38 years old Jared Isaacman – Founder and CEO of Shift4Payments
  • Hope: 29-year-old Haley Arseno – Doctor assistants and childhood cancer survivors treated with St. Jude
  • Generosity: 41 years old Chris Sembroski – Lockheed Martin US Air Force veteran and aerospace employee
  • prosperity: 51 years old Dr. Cyan Proctor – Entrepreneurs, educators, trained pilots, and the active voice of the space exploration community

SpaceX trained all four crew members as commercial astronauts on Falcon 9 and Dragon spacecraft. The crew was trained in orbital mechanics, microgravity, weightlessness, other stress tests, emergency preparedness, and spacesuit training.

The mission was funded by Isaacman in a private transaction with SpaceX. Isaacman has also invested $ 100 million towards a funding target for the St. Jude mission.

Inspiration4 Lift Off: SpaceX Launches World’s First All-Citizen Mission in Earth’s Orbit

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'Flying' microchips could ride the wind to track air pollution – Yahoo Movies Canada

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Researchers have created a winged microchip around the size of a sand grain that may be the smallest flying device yet made, Vice has reported. They’re designed to be carried around by the wind and could be used in numerous applications including disease and air pollution tracking, according to a paper published by Nature. At the same time, they could be made from biodegradable materials to prevent environmental contamination. 

The design of the flyers was inspired by spinning seeds from cottonwood and other trees. Those fall slowly by spinning like helicopters so they can be picked up by the wind and spread a long distance from the tree, increasing the range of the species. 

The team from Northwest University ran with that idea but made it better, and smaller. “We think we’ve beaten biology… we’ve been able to build structures that fall in a more stable trajectory at slower terminal velocities than equivalent seeds,” said lead Professor John A. Rogers. “The other thing… was that we were able to make these helicopter flyer structures that are much smaller than seeds you would see in the natural world.”  

They’re not so small that the aerodynamics starts to break down, though. “All of the advantages of the helicopter design begin to disappear below a certain length scale, so we pushed it all the way, as far as you can go or as physics would allow,” Rogers told Vice. “Below that size scale, everything looks and falls like a sphere.”

The devices are also large enough to carry electronics, sensors and power sources. The team tested multiple versions that could carry payloads like antenna so that they could wireless communicate with a smartphone or each other. Other sensors could monitor things like air acidity, water quality and solar radiation. 

The flyers are still concepts right now and not ready to deploy into the atmosphere, but the team plans to expand their findings with different designs. Key to that is the use of biodegradable materials so they wouldn’t persist in the environment. 

“We don’t think about these devices… as a permanent monitoring componentry but rather temporary ones that are addressing a particular need that’s of finite time duration,” Rogers said. “That’s the way that we’re envisioning things currently: you monitor for a month and then the devices die out, dissolve, and disappear, and maybe you have to redeploy them.”

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NASA splits human spaceflight unit in two, reflecting new orbital economy – WION

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NASA is splitting its human spaceflight department into two separate bodies – one centered on big, future-oriented missions to the moon and Mars, the other on the International Space Station and other operations closer to Earth.

The reorganization, announced by NASA chief Bill Nelson on Tuesday, reflects an evolving relationship between private companies, such as SpaceX, that have increasingly commercialised rocket travel and the federal agency that had exercised a US monopoly over spaceflight for decades.

Nelson said the shake-up was also spurred by a recent proliferation of flights and commercial investment in low-Earth orbit even as NASA steps up its development of deep-space aspirations.

Also Read | Cracks on ISS a ‘serious issue’, says former NASA astronaut

“Today is more than organizational change,” Nelson said at a press briefing. “It’s setting the stage for the next 20 years, it’s defining NASA’s future in a growing space economy.”

The move breaks up NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, currently headed by Kathy Leuders, into two separate branches.

Leuders will keep her associate administrator title as head of the new Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate, focusing on NASA’s most ambitious, long-term programs, such as plans to return astronauts to the moon under project Artemis, and eventual human exploration of Mars.

Also Read | NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter is finding it tougher to fly on Mars

A retired deputy associate administrator, James Free, who played key roles in NASA’s space station and commercial crew and cargo programs, will return to the agency as head of the new Space Operations Mission Directorate.

His branch will primarily oversee more routine launch and spaceflight activities, including missions involving the space station and privatization of low-Earth orbit, as well as sustaining lunar operations once those have been established.

Also Read | NASA’s Hubble Telescope captures massive ‘eye’ of dying star

“This approach with two areas focused on human spaceflight allows one mission directorate to operate in space while the other builds future space systems,” NASA said in a press release announcing the move.

The announcement came less than a week after SpaceX, which had already flown numerous astronaut missions and cargo payloads to the space station for NASA, launched the first all-civilian crew ever to reach orbit and returned them safely to Earth.

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