Apr 19, 2021
NASA Press Conference Transcript on Mars Helicopter Ingenuity April 19
On April 19, 2021, NASA held a news briefing providing updates on the Mars Helicopter Ingenuity. Read the full transcript here.
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Ria-Rui cook: (01:06)
Hello, and welcome to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. It’s been a very exciting morning here. Earlier today, NASA’s Ingenuity Mars helicopter completed the first powered controlled whew flight on another planet. We are here now to tell you more about how that went. I’m your host, Rai-Rui Cook of the JPL digital news and media team. I’m joined here by key players who helped make this helicopter flight possible. We are going to start with some opening remarks, but I’m going to introduce the panelists first. First, you’ll hear from Steve Jurczyk, NASA’s acting administrator. Next you’ll hear from Michael Watkins director of JPL, and then we have a set of panelists for more discussion.
Ria-Rui cook: (01:53)
Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate, Mimi Aung, Ingenuity Project Manager, Bob Balaram, Ingenuity Chief Engineer, and Håvard Grip, Ingenuity Chief Pilot, and Justin Mackie, Perseverance Rover Imaging Scientist, and Deputy Principal Investigator of the [inaudible 00:02:19] instrument. I want to also note that the helicopter team is actually also with us on video conference. They can’t join us because of COVID restrictions, but I just wanted to take a minute and celebrate the first powered controlled flight on another planet.
Ria-Rui cook: (02:37)
Yeah. Virtual high fives all around, COVID safe. All right. Now I wanted to note that we are going to take some questions. Those of you on the media telecon, if you want to put yourself in the queue, please press star one. Anyone with questions can also ask questions using the hashtag Mars Helicopter. Okay, so let’s get started with Steve Jurczyk, who will then hand over to Michael Watkins at the lectern. Go ahead.
Steve Jurczyk: (03:15)
Hey, thank you. First, I just want to congratulate the team on an amazing historic first, congratulations to Mimi, Bob, and Håvard. Just amazing, like you said, first control-powered flight on another planet. Just truly amazing. I also want to congratulate the entire Perseverance team. The helicopter was added somewhat late to the project, which made it really challenging, not only for the helicopter team, but also for the Perseverance team. So, for John and Matt and the Perseverance team who had a integrate that, figure out how to integrate the helicopter on Perseverance and deliver it to the surface and deploy it. And, for Jen and her team, the ops team who supported this historic first flight, congratulations to everybody.
Steve Jurczyk: (04:09)
This was this really an all hands on deck effort. It involved Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate, the Space Technology Mission Directorate and the Science Mission Directorate. It involved JPL of course, but also the Ames Research Center and the Langley Research Center. It was really a unique, somewhat unique integration of our air [inaudible 00:04:32] research talent and capabilities and our space systems development capability, that really was able to accomplish this amazing, amazing flight very early this morning.
Steve Jurczyk: (04:48)
I feel like I’ve followed along with the team while I was at Langley and then at headquarters in Space Tech and then in the associate administrator role. I think a trip to JPL about once every year, and they’d always take me over to Mimi’s lab, the Mars helicopter lab, and Mimi would tell me what they’ve accomplished and all the challenges they had and what they’ve had to overcome. Her just excitement and enthusiasm for making this happen was infectious. And I think her leadership, along with the talent of the team made me believe that they could do it and they did. So again, congratulations. Many, many challenges, including having to complete the helicopter [inaudible 00:05:38] during a global pandemic. They had to get the size and weight of the helicopter down so they could achieve lift using rotary blades in a very thin atmosphere.
Steve Jurczyk: (05:52)
Then of course, they had another late challenge with having to do a software change and update, and do that with a helicopter 180 million miles from earth. Just an amazing job. This really is a Wright Brothers moment. It’s a start of a whole new kind of planetary exploration and will build on Ingenuity’s success to see how we can deploy this capability on future Mars missions. We have this evolution of exploring planets in the solar system. First, we do a fly by. Then we’ll do an orbiter mission and then we’ll do a lander mission, and we’ll land a Rover.
Steve Jurczyk: (06:34)
Now we’ve added another evolutional capability there, a flight on another planet. Ingenuity was a technology demonstration and experimental mission. But, it’s success is truly remarkable, and it gives us this new capability. I believe along with, with Mike and Thomas, that we should be doing these types of technology demonstrations on all our science missions to take advantage of ability to prove out new technologies and capabilities, that will then feed forward to even more ambitious and productive missions in the future.
Steve Jurczyk: (07:16)
You all exemplified what it means to be part of this amazing NASA team of many organizations, and you came up with this dream and this innovative idea, and you overcame came all the challenges, and made it happen. This could be not more … Could not be more proud of the team. Again, in a global pandemic, launching Perseverance, landing Perseverance, and now deploying and flying the helicopter. Just incredible, just incredible. Congratulations again. You all really personify the motto of dare mighty things and embody our nation spirit of persevering, even in the most challenging situation. You are providing inspiration and advancing science and exploration for not only in United States, but for the world. Congratulations again, and with that, I’d like to hand it over to Mike Watkins.
Mike Watkins: (08:18)
Okay. Thank you, Steve. It has been a great day here at JPL, and we’re very proud that we are continuing to be at the forefront of daring mighty things in planetary exploration. I wanted to build on something that you noted, which is that Ingenuity is a technology demonstration, right? It builds for the future. In many ways it is a perfect example of how we need to be doing technology and how we need to develop technology, and the brilliant engineers, some of whom you’ll see in the orange shirts, came up with the idea for Ingenuity, for a Mars helicopter before we had a name Ingenuity, over seven years ago. There was a push from technology, but it wasn’t quite clear at that time. Was it really the right instrument? Was it really the right thing, a helicopter to put on the Perseverance Rover?
Mike Watkins: (09:10)
We did what we felt was right, which was we stuck to it. We kept working on the Mars helicopter. We kept overcoming technological hurdles, and we kept showing why it would be valuable as a scientific instrument in the future. A combination of rugged support from JPL in terms of technology development, as well as NASA headquarters, and an exceptional team that overcame all the technological challenges one by one, until it became obvious that the right thing to do was to put it on Perseverance and fly to Mars as a full demonstration. I think that’s the kind of partnership that push of technology and pull of science that we are now seeing to be very productive within NASA. Actually we’re working on several other missions that have technology components much like Ingenuity, but going to other parts of the solar system as well.
Mike Watkins: (10:02)
Now, our brilliant team has overcome a number of challenges, and for those of you that remember back in 1997, we had a mission called Mars Pathfinder and had effectively a technology demo called the Sojourner Rover. That freed us up from being in the place we stuck the landing to being able to drive around. Now of course, those rovers have become curiosity and our latest Perseverance, capable of driving tens of miles on the surface and going to the best places for scientific discovery. Well, what the Ingenuity team has done is given us the third dimension. They freed us from the surface now forever in planetary exploration, so that we can now make a combination of course, of driving on the surface and sampling the surface and doing reconnaissance and even scientific experimentation on inaccessible places for a rover.
Mike Watkins: (10:52)
I think this is exactly the way we build the future. I think you’ll hear a lot more about the scientific promise of rotorcraft on Mars, and other planets as, part of the science mission directorate portfolio. To talk about the importance of ingenuity and some of the future, I’d like to turn over to my colleague, Dr. Thomas Zurbuchen, who is the Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA headquarters. Thomas.
Thomas Zurbuchen: (11:19)
Yeah. Thanks so much, Mike. I just want to tell you, as I’m starting here, I’m just so proud to be on the up here next to Mimi, and especially that team here also on the monitor. I just want to tell you on behalf of all of us at NASA Science, how proud we are of you, and how we recognize how important you are for this particular success. I just want to ask one more time everybody to join me. [inaudible 00:11:52] The story of this team is compelling. It’s a story of a great, perhaps even a crazy idea, initially. Many people, have had really hard time. It turns out we all have a hard time finding that right line between crazy and innovative. It turns out we’re often wrong with that line, a crazy idea that while it’s being developed, and this team put the idea into reality. The most important thing that takes, of course, is hope.
Thomas Zurbuchen: (12:27)
It’s the hope that that is actually possible to come together with the may, with everything this team has, with the personal education, with the commitment to success and with learning from each other until it actually works. For me, what I want to point to is the first picture here, and I want to just tell you this picture means two things for me. On the one hand I recognize that this picture was taken from the Fun Seal Overlook. My friend Jacob, who is no longer with me, I see in this picture because I know that he was an important part of making this helicopter happen. The second thing that is important in this picture is what you don’t know right now, as you look at it, it’s actually the after flight picture. So, it landed there and it landed on the surface after this flight and it did so safely.
Thomas Zurbuchen: (13:27)
So, for me, again, what I see in this is now, not only this amazing little machine, but the team that actually achieved that, and it relates this to a story that’s 117 years apart and 173 million miles apart. A story that actually started even earlier with a little toy that a father brought home to two kids that were about 10 years old. It’s a rubber band with a little rotor. It’s a little toy that never got out of their mind that became bicycle mechanics. They started working on this and actually did that famous record in 1903 when the achieved first controlled flight on this Earth. So, when we look at the previous picture that I just show, I want to just tell you that in homage of this amazing achievement, we have designated, and please pull up the next picture, have designated this landing site as the Wright Brothers field. We are so excited to have these two stories, the story of Ingenuity and their team, related to the Wright Brothers. I just want to tell you, as we go forward, actually that connection has already been made, and we talk about it. I have here in front of me, a little sample of the flyer, actually the actual fabric that did that historic act in 1903. What I want to show you in the next movie is actually how this sample … do you see there’s a piece missing in what I just showed you? In the next movie I show how this piece that is missing was actually included on this flyer and this morning made history together with that. So, for me, Mimi team and Ingenuity team, history connecting those two amazing stories together has been made this morning. Why don’t you tell us more, Mimi Aung about it?
Mimi Aung: (15:32)
All right. Thank you, Thomas. Well, our team has been working over six years, some even longer, towards their dream of experimenting the first ever flight at Mars. This morning, our dream came true. If we can play this video, this is from, taken from Perseverance Rover, a video of our dream. Just beautiful. Taking off, goosebumps. It looks just the way we had tested in our test chamber, space simulator chamber here. Absolutely beautiful flight. I don’t think I can ever stop watching it over and over again, and lands. Well, when things work, it looks easy. I would like to take this opportunity to remind how difficult it is to fly a rotocrop at Mars. First and foremost, because the atmosphere there is so thin, right? About 1% compared to that at Earth’s. So, that’s like on earth being elevation three times the height of Himalayas. So ,the air is very thin and Ingenuity had to be really light, small, and has to be able to fly in this thin atmosphere and survive on its own. It did all of that, under four pounds.
Mimi Aung: (17:04)
So, Bob Balaram will be talking more of that, but I did want to remind that, well, this morning was an incredible moment. Our team reaction here this morning, this video, it was around 3:30 AM this morning, but is sure didn’t feel like early in the morning. It just felt like a very normal middle of the day, extraordinarily exciting.
Speaker 1: (17:30)
We have data [inaudible 00:17:31] confirming that we unpacked image and one Hertz data. This is Downlink handing off to Flight Control for telemetry analysis.
Speaker 2: (17:39)
Swash plate servos appear healthy. Overall actuators appear healthy.
Speaker 3: (17:44)
This is Flight Control confirming that we have AVRs from Ingenuity. Ingenuity is reporting, having performed spin up, take off, climb, hover, descent, landing, touchdown, and spin down. Altimeter data confirmed. Ingenuity has performed its first flight, the first flight of a powered aircraft on another planet.
Oh wow. Oh my gosh.
Mimi Aung: (18:41)
It’s unforgettable day, unforgettable day. It’s all about the team to start with. Really, our team across JPL, Ames, Langley with our industrial partners, AeroVironment Qualcomm, Celero Lockheed others. We were a team. I mean, just a strong team. During this morning downlink, I did say that we had many friends who contributed to our success. Okay. Including Perseverance Rover team and many, many others, and some of them are far away now. Again, as Thomas mentioned, Jacob, Jacob, Vinsel, I’m sure you were watching our first flight from the Jacob overlook. So, we’re thinking about you, David, thinking about you, Jacob. So, with that this early morning flight, what it means for our mission success, Mars Helicopter Ingenuity, technology demonstration project has three goals in align with NASA’s agency level objectives. So, the first is to show on earth that it is possible to fly power controlled flight ib Mars.
Mimi Aung: (19:51)
We did that before we were launched. Then, the second goal was to actually fly in Mars. We have done it. This is the first time I’ve been able to say we’ve done it. The third goal is to get data back that will inform engineers that are going to design, that are designing future generations of Mars helicopters. We have done that too, and we’re going to continue. So beyond this first flight, over the next coming days, we have up to four flights planned and increasingly difficult flights, challenging flights. We are going to continually push all the way to the limit of this rotocraft. We really want to push the rotorcraft flights to the limit and really learn and get information back from that. So, with that, I’d like to hand over to Bob Balaram, our Chief Engineer, and really the innovator of our original design for Mars helicopter. Over to you, Bob.
Bob Balaram: (20:48)
Thank you, Mimi. First, I’d like to just take a moment to thank all of you who have been on this journey with me. There’s been many a technical conversation, many a late night, many tests. I want to thank all of you who have been part of that and your families and your loved ones who helped get us to this point. Ingenuity itself is extremely healthy at this point. In fact, she’s even healthier than she was before this flight. She shook off some of her dust that had been covering the solar panels and is in fact producing even more solar energy than before. The batteries are looking good. The communication system is fantastic. The landing gear to have worked well. All these silver mechanisms and mortars are doing great. The computers and the avionics behaved the flawlessly. So all in all, it’s in a perfect state, and I’m just really excited to see what more she can teach us or what the next few weeks as we explore avian mobility on Mars. With that, Håvard if you can tell us about exactly what happened during this flight, that would be great. Thank you.
Håvard Grip: (22:02)
Yeah. This flight was all about proving that it is possible to fly on Mars. So, to that end, what we had instructed Ingenuity to do was to climb to altitude of three meters, hover there for a little bit, about five seconds, then make a turn of about 96 degrees, hover for another 20 seconds, and then go to land again in the same place that it took off from. That’s what we told Ingenuity to do, and it did exactly that, and it did it just perfectly. From everything we’ve seen so far, it was a flawless flight. It was a gentle takeoff. At altitude, it gets pushed around a little bit by the winds, but it really just maintained station very well, and it stuck the landing right in the place where it was supposed to go. When we were looking at the-
Håvard Grip: (23:03)
When we were looking at the downlink data this morning, one of the first things, or one of the most important things that we were looking for was this plot that you can see, which is a plot of the altimeter. That was really our first indication, or real proof, I should say that yeah, we really did leave the ground, we really did fly. In addition to this kind of telemetry, during the flight itself, Ingenuity was telling us all along what it was doing. What we were able to do with that data is, we could take that data and reconstruct the flight, and create an animation out of it. What we’re going to see here is such a reconstruction. We’ve taken that engineering data and animated the flight accordingly. And what that allows us to do is, it allows us to look at the flight in a different way, for example, from different angles up close, and see the small motions of the vehicle. And what you will see here is that it’s just really steady, just a beautiful flight.
Håvard Grip: (24:21)
This is the initial hover, and then a turn, and then hover again for 20 more seconds. (Silence). And then the landing, and just a tiniest little bounce that you can see there on the landing, and that is also completely expected. I have a video, as well, from the rover that we looked at before, that we’re going to see again, and this again, shows us the same thing, this time with real images from the vantage point of the rover. And it shows you, when you get up to altitude here, a little bit more clearly how it gets buffeted a little bit by the wind and how it very gently makes its way back and lands safely where it needs to be. And what’s exciting about this is, this is a flight that we’ve done hundreds, if not a thousand times before, but always in simulation, it’s always been on computer. And to see it now finally happened on Mars and happen exactly the way that we imagine it, it’s just a really incredible feeling.
Håvard Grip: (26:10)
Now, while it was flying, it has to keep track of where it is, and the way that it does that, in part, is by taking images of the ground below it, 30 images per second, and analyzing those in order to understand how it’s moving. Now, those images are primarily there exactly for that purpose, not necessarily there to be looked at. But it turns out, we grabbed a few of those images and downlinked them to Earth this morning, and it turns out, they’re absolutely stunning in what they show. What we see here is Ingenuity taking a picture of its own shadow right below it. And I think this is just a stunning image, not notwithstanding the fact that it’s a low-resolution black and white photograph. We have another image from the same camera, which shows just a moment right before touchdown. You can see the legs are just about to meet the ground here.
Håvard Grip: (27:16)
And this is a very interesting image to me in part, because of what it doesn’t show, which is, it doesn’t show a lot of obscuration from dust, which is one of the things that we weren’t so sure about prior to doing this experiment, so already, we’re learning things here. And then particular here, dust did not seem to be an issue in terms of obscuring the navigation camera close to the ground. In the next few days, we expect to perform further flights, and we also expect to get color images down from the helicopter. Now, one more thing that I want to mention here is that the International Civil Aviation Organization has assigned us a three-letter designator for Ingenuity, IGY, India, Golf, Yankee, with the call sign Ingenuity. And those details will be officially included in the next edition of ICAO’s Designators for Aircraft Operating Agencies, Aeronautical Authorities and Services. And the location of the flight was assigned an ICAO location designator, JZRO, for Jezero Crater, where the NASA Mars operation took place. And of course, these designators come in handy when we go to write in our logbook.
Håvard Grip: (28:47)
This is something that should be very familiar to any pilot out there, we always want to log our flights, so we don’t forget that we did them. For that purpose, I have this logbook with me. It says The Nominal Pilot’s Logbook for Planets and Moons, because we’re always thinking ahead here at NASA. So with that, I’d like to talk to Justin who will talk more about the imaging.
Justin Maki: (29:15)
Okay. Thank you, Havard. I’m Justin Maki, I’m the Perseverance River Imaging Scientist, and also the Deputy PI of Mastcam-Z. And I’m here… Just really happy to be here to share with you the results of our imaging over the last few hours on Mars. There’s sort of two cameras that we’re talking about, the video camera is the Mastcam-Z camera, which is a science camera that PI is Jim Bell at Arizona State University and his team over there, and it was built by Malin Space Science Systems down in San Diego. Mike Caplinger, Mike Ravine with The Hardware Group, built an excellent piece of hardware for us, and also Jensen running the ops team down there. And Kim Saxton here at JPL is our instrument engineer, and a whole team of people made this happen, so I just wanted to thank all of them for getting us to this point. And then the other camera I’ll show some pictures of, from the e-cam system, the navigation cameras on the rover, with our ops team.
Justin Maki: (30:20)
Those cameras were built here at JPL and our ops team, Nick Ruoff and Amy Culver. Credit to the entire rover team. I’m wearing my rover blue here, I’m actually on the heli team also, but I had to pick a color, so I’m representing the rover team here. The uplink and downlink engineering teams, just keeping the rover running, the orbiters, our partners, getting us all this data, it’s just really amazing. And we thank all of them, both here in NASA and ISA, TGO, and also the Deep Space Network. I just wanted to thank all of these people for making this really happen, they enable all this work. So with that, without further ado, I guess we’ll go to the video one more time because you cannot see this enough. By the way, it only came down about two hours ago, the full frame, so let’s go ahead and show the video. I’ll talk a little bit about it. It’s a 720p video, it’s 1280×720 pixels, it runs at about 6.7 frames per second. And we originally had the strategy of downlinking the 2.4-second snippet, so there it goes, you can see it taking off.
Justin Maki: (31:21)
And if you look carefully, you can see it turning in flight, and people have talked about that. And this is new, this just came down right before this press conference, turning in flight and then coming back and landing. I mentioned the frame rate, this is with one of our wider angle settings on the camera, 34 millimeters, so it’s a little more contextual shot. We also shot a full-zoomed version on the heli itself where the heli flies out of the field of view. We have not downlinked those full-frame images yet, so we’re expecting those in the coming days. We did verify from the imagery that the heli did take off about three meters above the surface, so that’s an independent verification. The heli blades are a little blurred due to the… It’s about a 10-millisecond exposure, which is about one half rotation of the blade at 2,600 RPM, roughly, it’s like 0.4. And let’s see, so far we’ve received about 14, or a little over a thousand frames, I counted 1400 last check, out of about 2000.
Justin Maki: (32:22)
Once again, the orbiter performance has really made this possible to even show you this so quickly, to get video from the surface of Mars. It’s really an amazing feat by everybody. The next image then, is again, going back to the fully-zoomed, 110-millimeter Mastcam-Z, a picture of the heli on the ground. Again, this is just a nice shot showing, if you look closely, it may be hard to tell, if you look closely at the center, you can see that there’s a camera on the helicopter itself that is now facing the rover, and it was not facing the rover before. So that’s proof that it did turn in flight, and it’s just a nice shot showing that the heli landed safely, and that’s just a great picture to have. Then the next picture is, now switching cameras, we’re going to go to the navcam camera, and the navcam camera does not have the video capabilities like Mastcam-Z, but we did take pictures during the flight, and this blink, hopefully it’ll blink.
Justin Maki: (33:24)
You’ll see the heli, that’s the heli on the ground there. Looking carefully, look… Now actually, you know what this is? This is the other one. Now, if you look carefully at the hell, you should be able to see it shifting. That shows the difference between the takeoff location and the landing location, it may be hard to see in the video, but we’ll put that out on the… We’ll release that so people could look at that more closely. I can see it from here, but hopefully it’ll come out on the video. It just shows that the landing was just sort of a real pinpoint landing there by the team. Congrats to the heli team for just nailing it, of our company. And then the last video, or the last blink GIF, shows, hopefully it shows the full height there. There it is. Okay. We have the full height of the helicopter there, captured by the navcam mid-flight, and then a comparison with the heli then on the ground, which will show the full height.
Justin Maki: (34:19)
It’s hard to see the video there from here, but the main summary is that we… Actually, you know what, I’m looking at this, this looks like this is the Mastcam-Z again. Well, we just got the data all down, so it sounds like it might be slightly out of order. I think the main point here is that we are swimming in data right now, and we are just cataloging it basically, and learning about the flight. We’re just extremely happy for this whole team, the rover team and the heli team. And I just wanted to close my statements by mentioning… I mentioned that I was on the heli team, this is with Bob, like seven years ago, where we were talking about taking pictures from a heli. Seeing it all come together like this is really reminiscent of another project that I worked on 24 years ago, the Mars Pathfinder mission, where we had the Sojourner rover, which was a new technology, a new capability.
Justin Maki: (35:15)
There were skeptics at the beginning, and then once something like this happens on Mars, the skeptics get converted and it soon becomes a new way of doing things. And I really feel this project, this team, has the same vibe that we had 24 years ago with Sojourner. Just seeing, going from a concept to demonstration like this, is going to open up new avenues for new ways of exploring. It’s very exciting, we’re very excited that this is all working so well, and just happy to get all this data back.
Ria-Rui cook: (35:48)
All right. Thanks Justin, and thanks for rolling with it. As Justin says, the images are all coming down in a fire hose and we will make the images available for you all online, so look for it on the website. We’re going to transition now into Q and A. A reminder for our colleagues from the media, if you’re on the telecon line, please press star 1 to get into the queue. And for others who are using social media, you can use the #Marshelicopter. Our first question on the media line comes from Marsha Dunn of the AP.
Marsha Dunn: (36:21)
Yes. Hi, congratulations. I’ve got a couple of questions for the chief pilot, I believe Mr. Grip, what was the wind speed at Wright Brothers Field today for the flight? And when are you anticipating to attempt flight two? I know you had a schedule laid out in advance, but since you’re a week down on the timeline, I wasn’t sure if you were going to try to rush things along. Thank you.
Håvard Grip: (36:46)
Yeah. In terms of the winds, we did take additional data during the flight, and we expect to get some more information about what the actual winds were at that time. What we can operate with at this point is the forecast that we have based on prior data, and there is some uncertainty on that, but the most recent indications that I have is that it was on the order of somewhere between two to six meters per second of wind, and that’s what we were dealing with. And that would seem, just eyeballing the behavior of the flight, that doesn’t seem inconsistent with the behavior, although it’s hard to say much more than that. As far as when we perform the next flight specifically, I’ll let MiMi perhaps answer that question.
Mimi Aung: (37:36)
Sure. Yeah. We’ll get the high-rate data downlink from the helicopter to us tomorrow, and then we will be attempting to fly within the next few days. We’re targeting for this Thursday, but we’ll know more after we get the high-rate data.
Ria-Rui cook: (37:53)
Great. Thank you. Our next caller is Kenneth Chang from the New York Times.
Kenneth Chang: (38:00)
Hi, I was wondering if you had better plans for the fourth and fifth flights. I guess when I talked to MiMi, Bob, and Havard last year, you had mentioned aiming for 500 feet or 15 meters. And I was also wondering, when could there be, might there be a second helicopter on Mars?
Mimi Aung: (38:16)
Do you want to take it?
Håvard Grip: (38:22)
In terms of flights four and five, I think we still have a little bit of team discussion, on basis of just today’s flight, the results of that, and what we’re going to get over the next two flights, flights two and three. And that will inform what we do for that. But just in general terms, what you’re talking about here is, going higher, going further, going faster, stretching the capabilities of the helicopter in those ways. But exactly how far in those directions, is a discussion that we need to have.
Mimi Aung: (38:54)
Regardless, I can add that we will be pushing the envelope. As we succeed in certain lateral flights, we’re going to go further, faster, definitely, especially towards the end of the experimental window. We will be pushing the envelope and really stretching and understanding how well we can fly. For the second helicopter question, I think I’ll pass it to you, Thomas.
Thomas Zurbuchen: (39:14)
Yeah. And of course, the answer is, I don’t know what the answer is when are we going to fly. What I’m really interested in is frankly, the science community’s ideas about how to turn this into a science machine, from a tech demo into a science machine. And you see what the opportunities are to fly to Mars. You know that we have some things scheduled in 26, 28, with Mars sample return, but we do competitions on a regular basis for missions that go elsewhere. We’re really interested now going forward, but there’s nothing set right now into stone as to when the next helicopter will be going to Mars.
Ria-Rui cook: (40:01)
Okay, great. Thank you. Our next caller is Bill Harwood of CBS News. Are you there with us, Bill?
Bill Harwood: (40:15)
I’m sorry. Can you hear me now?
Ria-Rui cook: (40:16)
Yes. There you are.
Bill Harwood: (40:17)
Oh, sorry about that. This is a question for MiMi. You said in your blog post over the weekend that you guys had come up with this software fix, and you warned us that there was maybe a 15% chance it wasn’t going to work, you didn’t know for sure. Then if it didn’t, you just would try again. What is the strategy going forward, given the results today? Is that what you would do on flights two, three, or four if one of them gets delayed by this software problem, you would just try again? And I’m wondering, is there a deadline where the Perseverance folks really want you to be finished so they can go on with their mission? I’m trying to wonder if there’s some clock running on you guys. Thanks.
Mimi Aung: (40:57)
Absolutely. This command’s only option that we chose, the simpler option, it has paid off. We got our first flight in hand, and for the second flight, we will be using the same technique. And so far, it’s working well. We’ve been testing it on Ingenuity, and then today it worked well, so we’re going to proceed in that direction. In terms of the duration, yes, we have a 30-day experiment window, so we have about two weeks left, and we believe we’ll be able to squeeze the next four flights that we have planned, these increasingly bolder flights. We want to go hundreds of meters out towards the end, we do want to push it, and I believe we have enough time to squeeze the next four flights in the next two weeks left. Again, thank you to Ken Farley, the Perseverance rover team, we will be done in our month, and the rover needs to go on for its primary mission, that is very important. That’s the plan.
Ria-Rui cook: (41:58)
Okay, great. Yes, we have a month of Ingenuity and still some time left. All right. Our next call comes from Steve Gorman of Reuters. Go ahead.
Steve Gorman: (42:08)
Hi. Hope you can hear me. Thanks very much. I just wanted to know, I’m not sure who to direct this question to exactly, but are there practical implications of the success of Ingenuity, not only for expanded, enhanced Mars exploration, but for similar modes of aerial exploration in other worlds, such as Venus or Titan?
Mimi Aung: (42:29)
Sure. Bob Balaram, my Chief Engineer, Bob, do you want to take that?
Bob Balaram: (42:36)
Yes. The general technique of aerial flight is applicable to places like Titan and Venus. The specific vehicle, I think, will be quite different. Titan’s a much easier place to fly, easier even than Earth in some regards. And Venus has, depending on where you want to fly, has certain temperature issues, so the specific designs will be quite different. But yes, this does open up that doorway, and I think the bigger lesson here, I think, is also how do we operate these vehicles, how do we test these vehicles? There is that kind of knowledge that we have learned from this process of flying Ingenuity that will definitely transfer over and be useful for the folks who will be considering missions to those places.
Steve Gorman: (43:20)
Thank you very much. Congratulations.
Ria-Rui cook: (43:24)
Okay. All right. Thanks, Steve. Next up, we have Mike Wall of space.com.
Mike Wall: (43:32)
Thank you all for doing this. Just a quick question for probably Justin, could you kind of talk a little bit about how difficult it was to get those shots? It seems like everything is perfectly centered and everything worked extremely well. And I know you guys practiced, but was that tough? And a quick second one, do you guys plan to actually try to capture audio on the next flight, whenever it happens. Thank you.
Justin Maki: (44:00)
Yeah, that’s a great question. I can tell you from firsthand experience that, that was harder than it looks. In fact, I think I speak for our entire imaging team, that we’re kind of relieved that we caught it in flight. We had practiced this three, four times before, and this was the first time that we were able to nail it. I think it’s an interesting problem. You have two different spacecraft with two different time… They both have roughly the same time, but they operate differently, so characterizing how the heli operates when we tell it to go, compared to how the rover does its thing, is actually tricky. And I mentioned before, we had to do this with the Sojourner rover too, two different robots with their own system.
Justin Maki: (44:44)
We had to do the same thing here, and I think it’s a credit to the team that we kept trying over and over, and we were having debates. Should we do one long video, one spot, or do scattershot? We ended up doing a mixture of both, and the fact that it worked out so well is just amazing to all of us, and we’re very happy to be able to show these videos today. That’s the short, that’s the long answer, but it was tricky, I’ll just say that. And like I said, we’re all breathing a sigh of relief. The second question was… What was the second question? What’s that?
Ria-Rui cook: (45:21)
Justin Maki: (45:23)
Oh, the microphone. Yes. We do have a microphone and there is a plan to record the sound. We didn’t want to put that into the first observation, or the first try, because it was complicated enough just trying to get the video to work. So we’re going to be putting that in an upcoming plan. I’m not sure if it will be the second flight, but it’s certainly one of our later flights. We have two microphones. We have the EDL cam microphone, and then the super cam microphone. And I can tell you, the microphone owners are very eager to try, so we’re waiting in the wings to get them to get a chance to record it.
Mimi Aung: (45:55)
And that goes along the lines of, starting out conservative and getting bolder. And one thing, one concern we have is, if we turn on the microphone, just in case, there’s a chance of…
Mimi Aung: (46:03)
… one concern we have is if we turn on the microphone, just in case there’s a chance of EMI interference between the microphone and the helicopter flight. So we really want a few birds in our hands and then we’ll play with the microphone at that point.
Ria-Rui cook: (46:16)
Okay, great. Okay. Next caller is Paul Brinkman of UPI.
Paul Brinkman: (46:24)
Hi. Yes. Thanks for taking my question. MiMi, I guess I would like to know, you kind of hinted at this several times, do you actually want to, or expect to see Ingenuity crash at some point because you’ve pushed it to its limits? Is that like the ultimate test to see how far it can go? Or what do you ultimately think it’s fate will be? I’ve heard some people, just in idle conversation, wondering if it could tag along with Perseverance to stay in communication range. So what will its ultimate fate be?
Mimi Aung: (47:00)
Well, my current view, I believe, we’re together on the team, we do want to push it to the limit, and ultimately, Thomas, Mike, Jeff’s getting your permission, really because by going faster, further, our models are checking out at this time. They look good. Our models match what we saw in our test chamber, the flight today perfectly matched what we were predicting.
Mimi Aung: (47:26)
But we want to push, we want to push against the wind. We want to push against the speed. Ultimately, we expect the helicopter will meet its limit, but that information is extremely important. This is a pathfinder. This is about finding, is there any unknown unknowns that we can’t model? And we really want to know what the limits are, so we will be pushing the limit very deliberately.
Thomas Zurbuchen: (47:50)
I think it’s also important, and I just want to tell you this plan was put together by MiMi and her team, and I just want to tell you it’s also important and totally supportive of that plan to actually deal with this like a tech demo. We really want to be sure that when everything is said and done, we know the full scope of what’s possible with that type of flying machine.
Thomas Zurbuchen: (48:12)
So for us, that’s really critical, and for me, really kind of putting scope, a constraint around it. Like the month of Ingenuity is very much in the spirit of a tech demo. That’s exactly what you would want to do to make sure that in fact, we’re putting the pedal down and are going for it. I just applaud the entire team, and of course, the entire Perseverance team, basically, who are part of this experiment. So I just can’t wait to see what the next flights are like, MiMi and as we go forward, how this story will go on.
Ria-Rui cook: (48:52)
All right. Well, in the spirit of sort of casting ahead, I’m going to take a social media question, and I think this one’s for Bob. Space Tourism on Instagram asks, “Do you think you will be able to scale up the concept and fly heavy payloads? And by when?”
Bob Balaram: (49:08)
Yeah, so the fundamental dynamics of these vehicles does scale up to fairly reasonable sizes. So we are thinking of things in the 25 to 30 kilogram class, which is about the 50 pounds type of class of vehicles and those vehicles would carry about maybe about four kilograms of science … or of that order, about 10 pounds of science instruments. So early design work on that has started too, in terms of conceptual designs and to see what would it take to deploy these and operate them. So that would be, I think, a good sweet spot for the next generation design.
Bob Balaram: (49:48)
Anything much larger, the packaging of the blades and things becomes quite awkward. So it may not be quite feasible in the near term, but definitely something in the 50 pound class compared to a little four pound Ingenuity is definitely something that’s a very feasible and some early progress has been made in that direction.
Ria-Rui cook: (50:06)
Great. Thank you, Bob. Another social media question, this time for MiMi. Pete on Twitter asks, “What has been the most challenging part about this process? What is the most interesting thing y’all have learned from this flight?”
Mimi Aung: (50:20)
Most challenging? Well, I think Bob can answer it, first was meeting that four pounds, that 1.8 kilogram limit. Theoretically, it was proven it is possible to lift, build a helicopter. We knew early on from analysis. The real question is 1.8 kilogram and Bob is the chief engineer, and managed those 1800 grams.
Mimi Aung: (50:42)
I once saw him arguing with Eric Archer, who again, we have lost sadly over, Bob, do you remember, was it over two grams, or three grams? Eric wanted this telecom hardware that was two more grams and Bob just wouldn’t give up. So anyway, it made a huge impression. So the biggest challenge was the mass to start with.
Ria-Rui cook: (51:05)
Okay. Yes. It sounds like every gram counts. Okay. All right. We’re going to go back to the media lines and next up is [Alman Acon 00:51:12] of the LA times.
Alman Acon: (51:16)
Hi, can you hear me?
Ria-Rui cook: (51:17)
Alman Acon: (51:18)
Hi, thanks so much for taking my question. I have a couple, we’ve touched upon this a little bit already in some of the questions, but I’m just sort of wondering, in your wildest imagination, we talk about Sojourner being the trailblazer for all these other rovers and all of the ones that followed was so sophisticated. What is the most powerful and sophisticated type of flying planetary Explorer you think we might have in the coming years and decades and what kinds of worlds might they explore? Could you just sort of wax imaginative and think about what the potential really is here and some specific, but imagined ways. I’m not going to hold you to it. I won’t come back in 10 years and say, “Hey, where’s my flying rotocraft on Neptune or whatever,” but I just like to see sort of, where do you think to go?
Ria-Rui cook: (52:10)
Thomas, do you want to take this one?
Thomas Zurbuchen: (52:12)
So the first application of flying vehicles, of course, there’s track and fly at Titan, in which we have a very different vehicle. Bob already mentioned, it’s in many ways simpler because of the stronger atmosphere at the Titan than the earth even.
Thomas Zurbuchen: (52:27)
I want to just point out one point I’m sure everybody’s thinking about already, but knowing how to fly a vehicle like that may actually have applications on earth too. I mean, it’s that planet up there, at that these very high altitudes, there’s interesting science that I’m sure our earth science friends are thinking about also now, and whether they’re here at JPL and elsewhere.
Thomas Zurbuchen: (52:51)
I do believe that the primary application beyond that is really going to be at Mars. Frankly, what is in my mind, when I look at this is the that much of the science, when there’s a lot of papers written about … from the Reconnaissance Orbiter, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is about areas where we can not bring a Rover there, like crater walls are really exciting, with perhaps, some people say, water seeping out there or some kind of watery mix. Well, is that really the case? Well, to actually figure that out, frankly, you want to probably fly there. The final point I’m going to make is right after the technology demonstration, it’s usually a pretty bad place to figure out how big the box is in which the solutions live. I was not there, of course, at Sojourner, but we are here, from ’97, we are here and we have Perseverance Rover and it’s basically enabling sample return. For me, did, in fact, the Sojourner people think about a sample return of one of the core applications of this mobility?
Thomas Zurbuchen: (54:09)
Perhaps they did, but the point is that is where we’re investing major effort and dollars, and attention. Frankly, without mobility, I do not know how we could do this, and it’s an absolute critical science application. So the most important thing to learn about these things, it’s very hard to predict the future.
Ria-Rui cook: (54:30)
All right. Justin also wanted to add something.
Justin Maki: (54:33)
Yeah. I just wanted to say, 24 years from now, it’ll be 2045, if I did my math right. We’ve been up since two in the morning. So I think that the people to answer that question are maybe people watching this press conference right now, the kids in school, the kids studying, working hard, learning about science and technology. I think the answer to that question is up to you.
Justin Maki: (54:57)
So those of you that are getting inspired by this go into fields of science and technology and decide for yourself, what does the future look like? I think that’s what the group here did and we just try to be an example to those watching, to give you that opportunity to answer that question.
Alman Acon: (55:15)
Thank you. Just to clarification on Ingenuity and testing it to the limits, or are we looking to fly it as far as possible or as hard as possible? If that makes sense?
Håvard Grip: (55:30)
It is a question that I don’t think we’re fully decided on yet, where exactly where we want to push it. As I mentioned before, you can talk about the flying higher, you can fly farther, you can fly faster. Those are three particular areas where we’ll be looking in terms of possibly stretching the capabilities, assuming that things go well over the next three flights. That’s where we would be looking, but exactly how we prioritize between those different things, I think it’s still a discussion that we need to have as a team.
Alman Acon: (56:08)
Thanks so much.
Ria-Rui cook: (56:08)
Great. Thank you, [Hovard 00:56:08]. I think that just was that it’s hard to look into the future, but thank you for the glimpses into the future. Our next caller is Eric Mack of CNET.
Eric Mack: (56:20)
Yeah. Hi, thank you for taking my call. This is looking a little bit far down the road, but I know that NASA has an entire technology transfer office and often likes to spin off its technology. So I wonder if there’s been any discussion within the agency of possible applications for this technology here on earth?
Ria-Rui cook: (56:39)
Thomas Zurbuchen: (56:41)
So I did not check with the technology transfer office, of which we’re really proud. There’s a number of technologies that were transferred in many different applications. In fact, one of my friends told me that he started the whole business based on one of these technologies. I just only learned about this recently. I would not be surprised if a company somewhere basically says, “This is amazing technology. I want to learn about it.”
Thomas Zurbuchen: (57:08)
Whether or not the work is in this particular, in the research arena, like where we’re working or in other arenas that one could imagine. I mean like so much of this as in the area of dreams, right? I’ve been thinking, I can’t get out of my mind the amazing movie footage this would be if we saw somebody going up Mount Everest and seeing him get off a drone on the outside, actually covering that from there. I mean, nobody has ever seen this, like how would that look?
Thomas Zurbuchen: (57:39)
I’m not aware of any on negotiations right now, but I’m sure if there’s interest, the team is ready to support it.
Eric Mack: (57:49)
Ria-Rui cook: (57:50)
Great. Okay. Next caller is Stephen Clark of Spaceflight Now. Go ahead.
Stephen Clark: (57:58)
Thank you and congratulations to everyone. Stephen Clark of Spaceflight Now, a couple of questions. One for Hovard. Do you happen to know the vertical velocity at takeoff and touchdown of the helicopter? And also, maybe MiMi Aung can refresh my memory on the flight plan details for flights two and three, since you have those I think already planned out and just refresh my memory on the altitude and distance planned on those things.
Håvard Grip: (58:32)
So I think the question was about the philosophy for takeoff and landing for Ingenuity and so to take the take off first, the way that we take off is we boost off the ground with the fixed … what you call, collective setting that basically provides a thrust that’s well above what the aircraft needs to hover. So it sort of boosts off the ground with limited control and that very initial split-second.
Håvard Grip: (58:56)
Then once it separates from the ground, it gains just a few centimeters of altitude, then we take full control of the vehicle and guide it up to the altitude that it’s going. That is because we don’t want to be fighting against the ground, with the legs on the ground. We don’t want to be fighting with it by applying full control, at that point, we want to separate cleanly, get out of ground effect and then continue controlling.
Håvard Grip: (59:26)
On landing, our philosophy here is to basically fly towards the ground at a constant speed. In fact, Ingenuity is commanded to fly through the ground and then just stop doing that when it detects that it’s not able to do it anymore, because that means it’s met the ground. So it uses the onboard inertial measurement units in order to detect that it’s stopped making progress downwards, and then it instantly lowers the collective to stop producing thrust and settles on the ground.
Mimi Aung: (01:00:05)
And then on the flights two and three, the second flight is to take off like today except higher, to five meters height, instead of the three meters height that we went up to. So we’ll go up to five meters height and then fly laterally for about two meters, come back the two meters and land from where the exact spot that the vehicle took off on. Then following that, flight three would be, again, to go up to five meters and then fly laterally 50 meters out, and then come back 50 meters and come back. Any other description you want to add to those flights, Hovard?
Håvard Grip: (01:00:45)
Yeah, no, that about captures it. So it’s sort of taking things step wise. Again, on the next flight, we will be testing higher altitude, so that will be one aspect of it. Then the ability to track to different way points that aren’t co-located like we have here. Then for that third flight, we would be translating further and at that point also faster, normally two meters per second is the forward velocity that we’ll be using for that third flight.
Ria-Rui cook: (01:01:19)
Okay. Thank you. We’re going to go to another media question from Joey Roulette of The Verge.
Joey Roulette: (01:01:27)
Hey, thank you for taking my question. This one’s for Thomas and it kind of echoes some of the other questions already asked, but from a broader perspective, how much more confidence does this flight give you for sending more helicopters to Mars or for other planets, and for Mimi, or Hovard, what exactly does pushing Ingenuity to its limits mean? And how high, I guess, could it go based on the data that you guys are seeing now? And is there anything that you guys are seeing in this data that tells you what those limits might be? Thanks.
Thomas Zurbuchen: (01:01:58)
Hey, I totally really appreciate the question. Look, I mean, I think of expiration … kind of there’s a box somewhere in my mind in which all the things we know how to do are in that box and every mission that we’re flying is a combination of the things we’ve already proven.
Thomas Zurbuchen: (01:02:16)
Well, since this morning, there’s an entirely new tool in that box and it should be combined with the other things that are there and I’m very confident that great ideas will emerge with that technology proven here for new missions.
Thomas Zurbuchen: (01:02:31)
I would be very disappointed in the science community and the technology community, if they didn’t come up with something utterly amazing because of the new dimension that was added by this technology to explore. So for me, I’m confident we’ll see a lot of this as we go forward, what it is exactly? I can’t tell you today.
Ria-Rui cook: (01:02:52)
Håvard Grip: (01:02:53)
Yeah. So again, in terms of how far we challenge it and what direction is still a little bit of a discussion, but I can say a little bit about this, what are the things that we are challenging, if we go say, faster with the helicopter. One of the things is airspeeds.
Håvard Grip: (01:03:12)
So the aircraft is tested up to a certain airspeed. So by going faster, we would be challenging those limits and that’s challenge as the aircraft in terms of its stability margin, its ability to handle those larger airspeeds.
Håvard Grip: (01:03:39)
Another aspect that we’re challenging in that regard is the navigation system because, as I mentioned before, we navigate by taking images of the ground below, and as we’re faster over the ground, those images, the features in those images disappear from you faster. So that’s another limiting factor if you will, that we’re pushing up against, as we start to go faster with the helicopter.
Håvard Grip: (01:04:04)
In terms of altitude, a main limiting factor there is our altimeter, which is, actually a laser range finder that measures the distance to the ground. So we’re limited by how high we can fly before that stops working properly. So normally there, we’re looking at probably somewhere, 10 meters or a little bit more, but not much more than that before we would start to run into limits with the laser range finder.
Mimi Aung: (01:04:38)
Well, to put a number on the distance, Hovard, I’d love to push it to 600, 700 meters. So just putting it on the record. So anyway, this is a further team discussion we’re going to have.
Håvard Grip: (01:04:50)
I’m being more cautious here, but yeah, we’ll take that discussion.
Ria-Rui cook: (01:04:55)
Okay. All right. Thanks for that. Next caller is Guy Norris of Aviation Week.
Guy Norris: (01:05:03)
Hey guys, thanks for taking my call and congratulations on an amazing achievement. Obviously, you are at the beginning of the first ever extraterrestrial flight test program, I guess. One of the things I was wondering about just to go back a little bit to what MiMi was saying was the lessons learned, how quickly you’ll be able to draw on these lessons learned for the following flight test.
Guy Norris: (01:05:29)
Specifically, the liftoff RPM, the descent rate that you saw on this first flight, will you be able to basically work on analyzing whether those were within predictions, as you said? The last part is just, could you say what these vertical velocities were on lift off and touchdown?
Håvard Grip: (01:05:53)
Yeah. So the data that we’ve seen so far, it’s actually fairly limited. In the next few days, we’ll be getting a lot more data down from the helicopter and that’ll tell us a lot about how it performed.
Håvard Grip: (01:06:06)
So in relation to the RPM, for example, the RPM is set based on what we expected the density to be at the time of flight in order to put us in a particular operating regime. So what we will see when we get data down, is we’ll see, what did the helicopter have to do in terms of the controls operating at that RPM? Were we operating at the set point that we thought we would be, or were we off from that? And that’ll tell us, among other things, something … it’ll at least tell, to what extent was the RPM appropriate for the density that were at? So that’s one example of that.
Håvard Grip: (01:06:40)
We’ll also get a lot of metrics that’ll help us analyze the navigation system and see, how well did it do at tracking features on the ground during flight?
Håvard Grip: (01:06:52)
And then I didn’t actually hear the last question that was asked, if he could repeat that.
Guy Norris: (01:06:57)
It was really just in terms of the velocity really, but as he said, I think you’re still going through the data. I just wondered if the touchdown did seem rather sporty, in terms of the descent rate, but I presume that, as you mentioned, is part of the philosophy of how you approach that landing sequence?
Håvard Grip: (01:07:20)
Yes, it is. It definitely is. So we descend at one meter per second, and in terms of sportiness, you can see, we don’t slow down when we start to near the ground there are multiple reasons for that. One of them is we just don’t want to hang out too long in ground effect.
Håvard Grip: (01:07:39)
Another reason is we are assuming that we could be obscured by dust when we’re operating close to the ground. Now, as you can see from the images, we don’t see much indication of that, but that’s been our longstanding assumption. For that reason, we don’t use the camera or the laser range finder when we’re near the ground, we’re just operating based on what’s called inertial measurements and those tend to drift very quickly. So when we’re in that mode, we need to get down to the ground quickly. So that’s another reason to just aim for the ground at a relatively high velocity and not try to slow down too much in the process.
Håvard Grip: (01:08:17)
The third reason is because we’re sensing that they’re meeting the ground, we want to do that confidently. If we just barely touched it, it’s hard to detect that that’s what you did. So we touch down confidently, we can very easily detect that we did so, and then we can stop flying.
Guy Norris: (01:08:38)
Got it. Okay. All right. We’re going to take a social media question here. This is for MiMi, [Doni 01:08:47] on YouTube asks, “What advice would you give for girls and young ladies in school, around the world, who are interested in pursuing a career in space related technology?”
Mimi Aung: (01:08:59)
My advice, if you’re attracted to it, go …
Mimi Aung: (01:09:03)
… If you’re attracted to it, go for it. Don’t let anybody talk you out of it, including yourself. So I like to say find an intersection of what you like to do, what you’re good at, and the cause that you want to make and improve on. Find that intersection of those three. When you find it… It sounds like you are attracted to STEM. Go for it. It takes tons of hard work, but it won’t feel like hard work, because you’re going to enjoy it so much. Your passion is going to come out of it, and you will be able to make whatever you want to make happen. So yes, my biggest advice, don’t let yourself talk you out of it, and definitely don’t let other people talk you out of it.
Ria-Rui cook: (01:09:43)
Thank you, MiMi. Okay, we’re back to the media lines. Rick Lovett of Cosmos Magazine, go ahead.
Yes, thank you very much. My question has already been answered.
Ria-Rui cook: (01:09:54)
Okay. All right, then we will take the next media caller, Leo Enright of Irish Television.
Thanks very much, Jia-Rui, and congratulations to everybody. I have a semantic question for Bob Balaram. Some people may not realize that we journalists have people who look over our shoulders and check what we write. In Europe and Asia, we call these people sub-editors, and my sub-editors want to know why do I keep calling this a helicopter, and why do I not call it a drone? Can you help me answer that? And Jia-Rui, if I could ask a second question to Justin Mackey to know… Where is Perseverance going to be during this extended flight test program? Is it going to stay in place, or will it move around between flights? Thanks.
Bob Balaram: (01:10:54)
Yeah. So purely as a terminology, whether you call it a rotorcraft or a helicopter or a drone, you could use those interchangeably. I think one of the connotations drawn here is that it has a little bit of an off-the-shelf… You go buy it at your favorite store, and you can fly it out of the box. Ingenuity is quite different. It had to be designed from the ground-up for a very alien, very harsh environment. We don’t have drones that survive -130 degrees Fahrenheit at night. We don’t have drones that fly in 1% of the atmosphere of Earth. So if you’re careful about using the word drone, and you remember that this is a very, very, very special drone, you could say drone, but just want to make sure that people don’t lose track of the fact that it’s a very special aircraft that’s quite unique.
Bob Balaram: (01:11:46)
But if you want to call it a drone, helicopter, or rotorcraft, depending upon your community and your audience, feel free.
Ria-Rui cook: (01:11:55)
Okay. Then Justin, you want to…
Justin Maki: (01:11:58)
Yeah. So the rover is actually going to stay at its current location during the next few test flights. This location was actually… There was a fair amount of discussion about where to park for the duration of the month of Ingenuity, and the science team spent time debating that and picked this location. There are a lot of interesting nearby rocks that the team has, actually over the weekend, doing a lot of interesting discussion about what… Trying to understand the local geology, and they’re keeping very busy, actually. I will also mention too that this is giving the team a chance to just look at all the data. We’ve been also been using Mastcam-Z and the SuperCam RMI, remote microscopic imager, to take really detailed pictures of the delta remnants.
Justin Maki: (01:12:48)
And there’s been a lot of discussion about… Which way should we head into the delta? Should we go one way, or the other way? And so this is giving the team a chance to get caught up on all of that, too. So we’re going to be parked right where we are. We like this location. And I don’t know if any of us mentioned, the heli is about 70 meters away from where we are right now, 69 to 70 meters, so we like that vantage point. As you can see, we get a good view of the heli, so we’re happy with the current location.
Ria-Rui cook: (01:13:15)
Okay, we’re going to take another media question. This one is Rose-Ann Aragon from KPRC-TV.
Thank you so much for taking my question, and congratulations. This is sort of whoever would like to answer this. I understand that you have done hundreds of simulations of this. I’m interested to know, is there something that you have learned that’s significant that was not in line with what you had predicted with the simulation, other than the dust and the cameras of course?
Håvard Grip: (01:13:52)
It looks like it did in simulation. Again, we were going to get more data, and so we’re going to mine through that, and we’re going to learn things from that. And there may be things there that are unexpected, but just looking at what we’ve seen so far, it certainly flies very much like what we predicted in our simulations, which is really great. And as far as the dusts, our fears about having obscurations from dust near the ground do not seem to be borne out. We always knew that there was uncertainty with that, and we always took a cautious approach to it in terms of how we designed it.
Håvard Grip: (01:14:33)
And I’m happy that we did, but it doesn’t seem like the worst concerns in that area came through.
Mimi Aung: (01:14:43)
And just to add to that, this morning, [inaudible 01:14:46], who was looking at the telemetry from the motor and the server controls, he said, “Telemetry just looks exactly like what we see in the chamber.” Anyway, it is looking really good, but we’ll be scouring through the data. This is what tech demo is about, so we will be looking at the high-rate data over the next few days.
Ria-Rui cook: (01:15:10)
Justin, do you want to add something?
Justin Maki: (01:15:13)
I’ll just add from the imaging point of view, we’ve learned a lot from this first flight. As you might imagine, it’s very hard to simulate a helicopter at 70 meters, full speed spin, to get the timing. And so we’re going to take what we learned from our imaging today, and we’re going to work to improve the additional flight imaging attempts. So stay tuned, and we’re hoping to have even better video to show.
Ria-Rui cook: (01:15:36)
Thank you so much.
Ria-Rui cook: (01:15:39)
With the full scope of understanding the vehicle itself, where will this helicopter be the most productive and that would bring the most information on Mars?
Ria-Rui cook: (01:15:53)
Thomas, do you want to take that?
Thomas Zurbuchen: (01:15:56)
There are many areas on the Mars that frankly, we would like to have more information about, and that information is not accessible in any fashion by rover. And so for me, if I was to make a prediction… And again, Yogi Berra said it’s hard to make predictions, especially about the future, and that also applies here. But if I was to make a prediction, I would say the first type of applications are in one or another location like this, especially crater walls or specific craters where we just can’t get in. And we would like to see what’s there and how the walls are composed, but somebody else may have a different idea here on the panel, or I’m sure in the science community. With 10 scientists, we’ll have 20 ideas.
Ria-Rui cook: (01:16:42)
Okay, thank you. All right, we’re going to take another social media question. Maybe MiMi can start with this, but it probably applies to everyone, especially the people on our video conference. [Stephanie Lee 01:16:55] on Twitter says, “How is the Mars helicopter team going to celebrate this amazing accomplishment?”
Mimi Aung: (01:17:03)
Okay, first of all, this is the first day in our six, seven years of effort that we feel license to celebrate just the way we are. Håvard’s one of them, Josh Ravich another one, Teddy Tzanetos is another. There are a few who have never let me celebrate fully, and that have always said, “Not yet, not yet,” and so we’ve had a long journey. We came from a little prototype to a risk-reduction vehicle, to engineering development model, to Ingenuity, and then how to get onto the rover, getting launched, and then surviving the launch, and surviving the drop, and here we are. Every step has been huge, and we have never allowed ourselves to celebrate fully. So yes, we will be celebrating 100%, fully. We’re authorized for the first time.
Mimi Aung: (01:17:52)
But I’m sorry to disappoint you, we don’t know what our plan is. At least a Webex happy hour. Now, Bob, do you want to try, man? Bob is usually… Can you tell? He’s our chief engineer and innovator. He always thinks out of the box. I don’t know, Bob, what should we say?
Bob Balaram: (01:18:09)
Oh, I don’t know, MiMi. I think we could look to you for leadership even here.
Mimi Aung: (01:18:13)
Then we’re in trouble. So anyway, that’s a great question.
Ria-Rui cook: (01:18:18)
Well, I know we’re under COVID conditions, but hopefully you could see everybody smiling under their masks. All right, we’re going to go back to the media lines. We have [Kim Song Lee 01:18:29] from Hong Kong Cable News. Go ahead.
Hi, thank you. I’d like to ask, what’s the meaning of this flight for the aerodynamics study? And I hope you could explain a bit more on whether we could fly other kinds of aircrafts on other planets. Thank you.
Ria-Rui cook: (01:18:51)
Håvard Grip: (01:18:55)
Yeah, so it’s very significant in terms of validating the aerodynamic modeling that we’ve done in this project. So I say it looks like what we’ve simulated, and that’s great, because it validates the work that they’ve done. It means we got it right, and that is a huge thing in this case. And we will of course learn more as we get additional data and do additional flights for that. And as far as doing flights elsewhere, I think maybe Thomas could comment on that.
Thomas Zurbuchen: (01:19:40)
So I think there are a number of flights we would like to do on Mars, and we need to figure out what the right places are to go, and the right applications for that, and my hope is that science communities around the world are starting to focus on this. Going to Titan is something we’re already working on right now with a vehicle called Dragonfly that is under development. And even though that’s a very different atmosphere aerodynamically, a lot of the lessons learned here is how to test these vehicles and how to get them ready and actually put them in place. I think a lot of these lessons learned here are actually utterly applicable. There’s honor bodies of course in the solar system with atmospheres, and I would not be surprised if great ideas can come about to go to these as well. But those are the two obvious places to think about right now.
Ria-Rui cook: (01:20:32)
Okay. All right, we have another caller on the media lines, Ken Kremer of Space Up Close. Go ahead.
Thank you very much, and congratulations to the whole team. I have a question. For the fifth flight, if you get that far, is there any possibility that you might fly the helicopter towards the path that you’re going to drive the rover, and then drive past? If you do that, would you then drive up to the helicopter, and take some pictures of it and inspect it and see what it looks like? And for Thomas, do you have any room on the 2026 lander for a helicopter? Thanks.
Mimi Aung: (01:21:17)
Well for the fifth flight… As much as I can push Håvard to go as far as possible, I care about going really far and really fast. That number, which I’m really hoping is 600 meters kind of distance, and as fast as we can go is what we care about, I have to say I did share with Ken Farley and Mars 2020, we don’t care which direction. We really want to push the helicopter flight in the distance. So I would like to turn the question over to Ken Farley and Mars 2020 folks, if there is a preferred direction. So that is a conversation to come. So from our perspective, we want to push the distance and the speed, so stay tuned.
Thomas Zurbuchen: (01:21:59)
So you asked me… Hey, Ken. You asked me about 26, or the Mars Sample Return campaign. I just want to tell you, the Mars Sample Return campaign, the most important thing we need to do is keep it streamlined as possible. There’s a lot of things we could be adding to this, science instruments, tests, and other things. And frankly, the campaign that we have in front of us is very much focused on exactly one key objective, and that is to bring the samples back to Earth. And everything that we’re doing is supporting that objective. So technology demonstrations are a really critical part. I think Mike Watkins said it well at the beginning. We want to see wherever we can do it. I just want to also mention that for many missions, focus is a very critical part as well, and so often, what we need to do as explorers is have two opposing thoughts in our minds at the same time. So that’s what’s going to happen here, also.
Ria-Rui cook: (01:23:03)
Okay. All right, so thank you. We’re going to take another media question. [Manuel Masante 01:23:10] from Debate.
Hello, everybody. Congratulations NASA, JPL, the entire team, even the guys remotely. This is a historic day. MiMi, your enthusiasm is contagious, definitely. A question for you, or maybe for Håvard. The 96-degree rotation of the helicopter was done to see how the helicopter responds to certain commands, or was is done to point the camera towards the rover? And I wonder if we are going to be able to see the rover from the Ingenuity perspective.
Håvard Grip: (01:23:49)
So we wanted to make a turn, because it goes a little bit further than just a straight up-and-down flight. And the particular turn that we did there, the 96- degree turn clockwise, did put the return-to-Earth camera pointed towards the rover. We did not take a picture with that camera during this flight, but it does set us up for potentially doing that for the next flight. As far as whether we will see the rover or not, it depends a little bit on exactly the state that the helicopter is in when that picture is snapped, because the camera is angled downwards at an angle where it doesn’t see all the way to the horizon in level flight. And so you have to get a little bit lucky to catch the rover in that image, so we don’t have any guarantees that we will actually have that.
Ria-Rui cook: (01:24:45)
Justin Maki: (01:24:48)
I’ll just add one thing to that, because people do ask that question about imaging the rover with the camera. The original intent or plan was to have the camera rotated in portrait mode so that the long end of the field of view would look up just above the horizon, and we would take the picture of the rover. But late during development, and Bob can even talk about it a little more, there was an issue with the configuration, and it had to be changed and mounted in landscape mode. So that’s the story of why it is tricky to get that picture of the rover itself.
Ria-Rui cook: (01:25:22)
Okay, great. Thank you, and thanks to everyone for all of their questions. If you’re a member of the media and you still have more questions, you can contact JPL’s Digital News and Media Office. We will help you get interviews or everything you need. And if you’re on social media, we’ll continue to answer questions with the hashtag MarsHelicopter online. So thank you everyone for this. And for more on Ingenuity, you can visit go.nasa.gov/ingenuity. We’ll put the latest updates there. And if you want to learn more about the Perseverance rover, visit mars.nasa.gov/perseverance. There’s a link in there to the raw images, and so if you too want to drink from the fire hose, we have a place for you to go. All right. And if you’re on social media, you can join our conversation @NASAJPL. Again, you can use the hashtag MarsHelicopter. Thank you for watching, and go Ingenuity.