Apr 9, 2021
NASA Press Conference Transcript on Mars Helicopter Ingenuity April 9
On April 9, 2021, NASA held a news briefing providing updates on the Mars Helicopter Ingenuity. Read the full transcript here.
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Raquel Villanueva: (05:19)
Welcome to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter hitched a ride to the red planet on the Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover, which landed in Jezero Crater on February 18th. Now, Ingenuity is getting ready to attempt the first powered controlled flight on another planet. Today, we will update you on the helicopter’s operations and what to expect from its first flight, currently scheduled for Sunday, April 11th. I’m your host, Raquel Villanueva. To tell us about Ingenuity’s upcoming flight is Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA associate administrator for science. MiMi Aung, project manager, Tim Canham, Ingenuity operations lead, Amy Kwan ingenuity chamber test engineer, Elsa Jensen, mass cam Z uplink operations lead for mail and space side systems. For anyone watching who’d like to submit a question, you can do so by using the Mars helicopter hashtag. Our phone lines are now open to the media. You can ask a question by pressing star one and enter the queue. To start, I’d like to welcome Thomas Zurbuchen, who will tell us about the importance of technology demonstrations like Ingenuity. Thanks for getting us started, Thomas.
Thomas Zurbuchen: (06:51)
Thanks so much, Raquel. I want to take you back at 10:30. In the morning on a cool December morning in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, history was made. It took 12 seconds to make history. The first controlled flight here on Earth and something that had huge consequences, and I was thinking about that yesterday as I sat on an airplane from DC to Los Angeles, benefiting from that technology demonstration. We’re already on the surface of Mars. I want to bring up that selfie image that we’ve seen on social media, an image that shows that we’re ready for another historic moment, a historic moment, the likes of which, I believe, have analogs in 1903, controlled flight on a different planet. So when I look at this picture, of course, I think of the amazing team that got us there, the amazing people here at JPL, you’re going to hear from them, but also the industrial partners that supported us, including Lockheed Martin, for example, to help with the release device.
Thomas Zurbuchen: (08:15)
I think all of the colleagues in the aeronautics directorate at NASA, and then the Space Tech and the Human Exploration director colleagues that brought instruments onto the Perseverance Rover. I think of the team that came to getter with two words that will always be attached to both of these vehicles. The first one, of course, perseverance. And the second one, ingenuity. Those two words, I think are, especially as we do this still under COVID times, words that will always be attached to the history of this amazing feat that we’re about to attempt. I want to talk about technology demonstration. And if you have paid attention, you may have noticed that we’ve really added quite a number of technology demonstrations specifically to our portfolio of missions, not just in the science mission directorate, but across the entire agency.
Thomas Zurbuchen: (09:17)
Consider, for example, the Psyche Spacecraft. And I just want to tell you, I’m so excited to actually go visit that spacecraft this afternoon, next door to here, together with the principal investigator who has never seen it. And of course, the reason I’m talking about Psyche is that this amazing mission to this asteroid Psyche, this potential [inaudible 00:09:41] world out there, I want to talk about the deep space optical communication system that Space Tech is funding that’s on top of it, allowing us to test the ability of getting high bandwidth communication all the way from Mars distances to the Earth. I want to talk about next the coronagraph on board the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope, which is a technology demonstration also developed here to prove that technology, to allow us to image or detect worlds, exoplanets at brightnesses that are 20 million times weaker than the star in the middle, allowing us potentially to open up new ways of investigating these worlds as we’re searching for other planets, like our Earth, or planets, the likes of which we have no analogs of right here in the solar system
Thomas Zurbuchen: (10:40)
Other directorates have also done technology demonstration. And I want to talk about two of them that will go with the on crew Artemis mission. The first one is the lunar flashlight, a cube set that will look for water, especially frozen water, at the moon and help guide human exploration and robotic exploration on this world next to us. The near Earth Astrid scout, which is another cube set that will go with this entire Artemis mission, will look for asteroids that we could explore robotically and perhaps with humans in the future with novel propulsion technologies that it’s going to demonstrate.
Thomas Zurbuchen: (11:26)
And the final technology demonstration I want to talk to you about today looks like this little plane, but it’s the Maxwell Aircraft, demonstrating electric flight in novel ways of integrating that propulsion technology and approving it and really moving us towards net zero emission flight, a transformative change to all of technologies that, of course, we are enabling us to travel across the country and around the world. So these are some technology demonstration of many that are there that give us this high risk, high reward opportunity to really change the trajectory of what’s possible, just like we want to see Ingenuity do and the next couple of days. And I’m so excited now to turn it over to MiMi Aung, who, of course, has been the inspiring leader of Ingenuity. And I just really look forward to hearing from you now, MiMi.
MiMi Aung: (12:35)
Thank you. Thank you, Thomas. Well, the moment that our team has been waiting for is almost here. Sunday, the first flight. Each world gets only one first flight. So as Thomas mentioned, the Wright brothers achieved the first flight on earth. Ingenuity is poised to go for being the first for Mars. It’s going to be a flight experiment. Flight experiments are as oldest flying. So the Wright brothers’ first successful controlled flight powered controlled flight was a flight experiment. Next picture, please. Everybody is familiar with this picture, and that was Wilbur Wright performing this flight successfully on December 17th, 1903.
MiMi Aung: (13:26)
Few people know that that wasn’t his first attempt. So in the next picture showing not successful flight, that was taken in on December 14th, three days before in 1903, and the Wright brothers did not succeed. Well, history tells us that Orville and Wilbur took this setback as, like true engineers, went back, looked at the data, review the data, confirmed that their fundamental understanding of flying was correct, make the tweaks, went for it again, and succeeded. I love this picture because it’s truly a flight experiment. And in fact, that night after the failure, Wilbur wrote that there is now no question of final success.
MiMi Aung: (14:16)
So they knew, he knew that they had nailed the fundamental understanding and we have to test to advance. And that is what building first of a kind systems and flight experiments are all about. Design, test, learn from the design, adjust the design, test, repeat until success. And so same with Ingenuity Mars Helicopter. We started with the fundamental question, really serious question of, is it really possible whether it’s possible to fly a helicopter on Mars? And it’s challenging for many different reasons, most important of all, the atmosphere at Mars is extremely thin. It’s 1% compared to the atmosphere we have on Earth. And it is very cold at night. The vehicle we send there has to survive cold nights on its own. It has to charge itself. And the winds are new to us. On top of all, this flight experiment that we are performing at Mars has to be operated from back here on Earth.
MiMi Aung: (15:22)
All right, so we took on, we started with the analysis that showed how much we can lift, and then we took systematic, incremental, design, test, and feed into the next level of designing and test. And from showing the capability of lift with a prototype vehicle in simulated Mars atmospheric environment in the 25 foot chamber here at JPL, we showed lift. From then on, we went to show that we can build… We demonstrated first full control flight, power flight in our chamber in 2016. We went on to then develop the full-up model that is needed for the system to need to fly a test at Mars. And as we call it the engineering development model, we demonstrated full success test flight. We flew it successfully in our chamber in 2018, and then we built Ingenuity, which we flew in our chamber in 2019.
MiMi Aung: (16:24)
So this is the result. The picture you see is a closer photo of Ingenuity Mars Helicopter taken very shortly before we packed it to be shipped to Florida, to be integrated onto Perseverance Rover. Thomas, actually, you were in the lab visiting us the day this photo was taken. So this is one of my four favorite pictures on this project. So this little four pound vehicle, the vehicle that you’re seeing is four pounds, to date, as we speak, has been surviving on its own. The cold nights, the temperatures there get down to minus 90 degrees centigrade, so minus 130 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s been surviving on its own. It has been successfully charging. It’s recharging his battery during the day. It has been communicating to a space station that resides on the rubber, ultimately exchanging information with us. And we have fully confirmed that it has enough energy and power to perform this flight at Mars.
MiMi Aung: (17:28)
And the flight in Mars is high power. Peak powers exceed 350 Watts. So the vehicle is set. And the last time Ingenuity flew was here at JPL in the 25 foot chamber with us, with our team. And at that time, we said, “Next time Ingenuity flies, it will be at Mars.” [inaudible 00:17:48]. Next is a picture of our team. Oh, there it is at Mars. You see it? On its own, little four pounder. And next, please, is a picture of the helicopter team. Now, not everybody could make to this photo session. It’s a large team, and across the country. Here, our team at JPL, NASA Ames, NASA Langley, our industrial partners, AeroVironment, Qualcomm, SolAero, Lockheed others. And we are really proud to have achieved to where we are at this moment. And we’re looking forward to our first live attempt on Sunday.
MiMi Aung: (18:31)
So on behalf of our whole team, Thomas, I’d like to thank NASA and every organization for letting dare mighty things, and in this case, daring to fly on another planet. Really, thank you. And recapping the goals of the Mars helicopter technology demonstration is to meet NASA’s agency level objectives, and there are three. The first is to demonstrate on Earth that it is possible to fly a controlled power flight on Mars, and we have done that. And the second objective we have is to actually fly at Mars. We’re within a few days of doing that. And third is to return data, to inform engineers, developing the future generations of helicopters for Mars. We have started receiving data, and so far so good, and we’re looking forward to the data coming up.
MiMi Aung: (19:29)
So now turning our attention to the first flight attempt on Sunday. So up to now, we have been talking to Ingenuity every day since Ingenuity was dropped perfectly by Perseverance Rover to the surface. And we have checked out Ingenuity’s energy profile, very healthy, very good. We’re happy. The thermal models have been checked out. The sensors have been turned on. Computers are on, operating well. Rotor, the blades had been released, and we have finished testing the rotor operating low speed spin at 50 RPM. So we have one final checkout test and that’s scheduled for today, and that’s to spin the rotors full speed to the flight RPM. And after that, we will be set to go. So so far, so good. Knock on wood.
MiMi Aung: (20:23)
So we have chosen the time of the first flight to be 12:30 PM Mars local time. And this time is picked between assessment of wind conditions and assessment of having sufficient energy and power for Ingenuity to perform a robust flight. So in parallel, we have been communicating with the MEDA team on the weather at Mars. MEDA is the weather instrument on the Perseverance Rover. Initial metadata indicates that we could encounter winds higher than what we were able to test on Earth, but there’s also a probability it could be less than what we tested on earth. There is uncertainty in the predicted range, but our simulations show that we are able to… The system, the closed loop controlled flight system, is resilient to this range of wins. But that’s an example of exactly why we are testing at Mars, performing this light experiment. So we have carefully designed. We have carefully tested on Earth. We have been checking out carefully on Mars up to now, and it’s time to attend the first flight. And we will test, prove, and learn, regardless of what the outcome is in this first attempt.
MiMi Aung: (21:41)
So for Sunday, there are four possible outcomes. The first is full success. Second, partial success. Third could be insufficient or no data coming back, which means we’ll have to take more time to figure out what’s happened. Or it could be failure. So please join us. And regardless, we will learn whether it’s success, failure, interim. But one thing is for sure, we have done everything we can, and if we don’t make that first attempt, for sure, we will not make progress forward. So with that, to describe more of what’s coming up, I’d like to hand it over to Tim Canham.
Tim Canham: (22:25)
Well, thank you, MiMi. And the team, of course, is very excited to be looking forward to this first flight. We have spent the last year planning and practicing and, and understanding what we need to do to do the first flight. And of course, the team was very excited for Perseverance gently landing us on the surface. We looked for a site which thankfully was only 20 or 30 meters away from the activity of Butler Landing Site. And since we’ve dropped, we’ve been working our way through these commissioning activities to check out the helicopter, to do some calisthenics, to make sure all the motors and blades and computers are working, as MiMi mentioned. And so finally, we’re reaching that combination of all of that testing and the helicopter is good. It’s looking healthy. We’re very excited that the energy levels are where they need to be to fly.
Tim Canham: (23:16)
And we’re finishing off these last commissioning activities. And last night, we did our 50 RPM spin where we spun the blades very slowly and carefully and exercised the servos to control the angle of the blades. And that was very successful. And we have here a quick video that the mass cam Z took of the helicopter spinning in the distance. So from there, the Rover was about 40 meters away. And so we’re able to look at the telemetry in very good detail and verify that the blades moved and the blades spun is expected and it looks very good. So what’s it going to be when we fly? So the flight, as Mimi mentioned, will happen at 12:30 in the afternoon on Mars time, which will be about 8:00 PM on Earth time on Sunday. And then later on in the evening, the data will be relayed back to Earth by the Perseverance Rover through an orbiter, and then we will be waiting here in the control centers at NASA for that data to come in. We’re expecting that data around 12 midnight, early Monday morning.
Tim Canham: (24:22)
And so what’s the first flight going to be? It’s going to be a very careful flight, just to do the very first checkout, because it’ll be our first flight. And we’re going to lift off, we’re going to go up to about three meters, we’re going to rotate in the direction of the Rover, and we are going to take a picture, and then we’re going to settle back down. The whole flight, from the moment the blades spin up until we land again, will be about 40 seconds worth of time. That’s the time we felt safe doing it on our first flight, given the energy levels that we’re seeing. And we want to make the very first flight a safe one. As you can see in the accompanying animation, that’s what the flight will look like. So one of the nice things-
Tim Canham: (25:03)
That’s what the flight will look like. So one of the nice things about the helicopter is that it has cameras onboard and we have a downward pointing black and white camera that we use to do our navigation. It’s fused with other sensors, like an inertial guidance sensor and an altimeter. And as we’re flying, we’re taking pictures 30 times a second of the surface and the software is detecting features and then as the helicopter moves, those features move with it. The helicopter can do an estimate of what the rate and direction of the helicopter motion is.
Tim Canham: (25:35)
So that black and white camera is our primary camera that we use for navigation. Here is a picture that we took downward facing on the day that we dropped. And you can see it’s slightly overexposed, but we’ve been tuning it over the last few solves to get better pictures, but that’s really the view of what the helicopter is going to see while it’s flying. And it’ll pick out those features on the ground, the rocks. That was one of the reasons we selected this train is because the features are very nice for that feature tracking. So as those features drift, the software can detect those that drift.
Tim Canham: (26:06)
Secondly, we have a 13 megapixel color camera that’s pointing towards the horizon, and that will take a few of those pictures during each flight, so that we’ll get a live picture as we’re aloft. And here’s a picture underneath the Rover on the day that we dropped.
Tim Canham: (26:23)
Now, there was a picture that went out that was a low resolution version of this picture, but in the meantime, we’d able to retrieve the high, full glory, 13 megapixel picture. That will be out on the NASA website soon. So this is kind of an idea of what kind of resolution that we’ll get from those pictures as we take them.
Tim Canham: (26:41)
So what will we be doing the night of the flight, when the data comes in? We have our down link team that will be watching carefully as that relay happens from the Rover through the MRO orbiter, back to earth. We’ll see the data show up in the data center and then our down link engineers will start to decode all that data. The first thing we want to do is to verify that we got the data correctly. At that point, once we confirm that the data has arrived, we will turn it over to Havard Grip, who was our chief pilot. And he will look for very specific events in that data that indicate that the helicopter took off, did the hover, did the rotation and then came back down and landed successfully. That’s the first thing we’ll look at.
Tim Canham: (27:26)
And then what we’ll do is we’ll jump to our altimeter data. We have a laser altimeter and we’ll do a plot of that altimeter data to see that we rose, hovered and then came back down. And at that point, we’ll be able to confirm, yes, we did really take off and we’ll be able to then look at images. That black and white navigation camera that I mentioned, it will be taking these downward pictures and will be taking some images as we come down that help us check for sure where we landed. And so we’ll be able to see that on the day of the flight. The color camera, pictures that I mentioned, we will be down linking them the day after the flight. So, we’ll be very excited to see what kind of picture was taken during that flight time.
Tim Canham: (28:10)
Once you’ve seen the altimeter and the helicopter team is super excited because we’ve confirmed that we did that first flight, then we should be able to see some imagery from the Rover itself. The Rover’s going to use that magnificent Z CAM instrument to attempt to take video during the flight. We’ve been practicing that over the last few solves with the blade release and the 50 RPM spin, to try to synchronize our timing and so far it’s gone really, really well. We thank the Mastcam-Z team for that.
Tim Canham: (28:41)
And so on the day of the flight, when we’re down linking that data, once we confirm that we flew via that altimeter data, then we can turn it over to the Rover team and see what kind of imagery they got for the actual flight from the Rover itself.
Tim Canham: (28:53)
So we’re really excited. It could be an amazing day. We’re all nervous, but we have confidence that we’ve put in the work and the time, and we have the right people to do the job. And so at this time, I want to turn it over to Amy Kwan and she can give some history on how we actually tested the helicopter for this momentous moment.
Amy Kwan: (29:19)
So my job as the test conductor for the Mars helicopter was to make Mars on earth, and enough of it so that we could actually fly our helicopter in it. We needed to test Ingenuity because it’s very difficult to fly on Mars. The main reason is that the atmosphere is very, very thin. It’s about 1% of the density of Earth’s atmosphere at sea level. That’s the equivalent of about 1,000 feet of altitude on earth or three times the height of Mount Everest. We don’t generally fly things that high. Commercial airliners fly at about 35,000 feet. The earth record for helicopter altitude is about 41,000 feet. And there were some people who doubted we could generate enough lift to fly in that thin Martian atmosphere. Now Mars has less gravity than earth, but that’s not really enough to counteract the effects of that thin atmosphere.
Amy Kwan: (30:08)
So we needed to simulate that environment on earth to prove to ourselves and others that we could generate enough lift to fly on Mars. We conducted a battery of tests over the course of five years, starting in 2014. We started by showing that lift is possible and then we moved on to showing that we could have controlled, autonomous flight with increasingly light development models, before we moved on to testing our flight model, which is the helicopter that’s currently on the surface of Mars. And wow, that’s really amazing to say.
Amy Kwan: (30:40)
For simulating Mars on Earth, we were using our 25 foot space simulator, a thermal vacuum chamber that we have here at JPL. This is a chamber that we run all of our spacecraft through before we send them off into space. For instance, both Curiosity and Perseverance went through this chamber on their way to Mars. And the Voyagers went through this chamber on their way out of the solar system.
Amy Kwan: (31:01)
So for our first flight in 2014, we put a small helicopter prototype in the chamber, sucked all the air out, added a little bit of carbon dioxide back to simulate that Mars like atmosphere. So on Mars, the atmosphere mostly consists of carbon dioxide, whereas on Earth it’s mostly consisting of nitrogen. For that first proof of concept in 2014, that was our first time attempting to fly in that Mars atmosphere, we were using an experienced helicopter pilot to directly control the helicopter. In the video you will be able to see that we were able to hop around. Video, please. So hop, hop, and then rapid unscheduled disassembly.
Amy Kwan: (31:44)
Now, that may look like a failure, but similar to Wilbur Wright’s failed flights back at Kitty Hawk, we learned a whole lot. And the biggest thing we learned was that we can generate sufficient lift and we actually can fly on Mars. Granted, we need to spin the rotors much faster than helicopter on earth would to generate that lift, but we can do it.
Amy Kwan: (32:04)
The other thing we learned is that because of that thin atmosphere, things happen too quickly for a human pilot to be able to react in time. Think about it like if you were driving your car and you turn the steering wheel the tiniest bit to stay in your lane and suddenly your car was doing donuts.
Amy Kwan: (32:19)
So between that and the potential distance between Earth and Mars, which means that there is a time delay between when you send a command on Earth and when it’s received on Mars, we decided that this helicopter needed to be able to fly on its own. That means we could upload a given flight profile to it, and then we tell it to go, but then it would have to do everything else on its own.
Amy Kwan: (32:43)
So by 2018, we had incorporated all the data from the previous tests into testing this engineering model in our vacuum chamber. Can I get this video, please? You’ll see that the helicopter client spins up, climbs, turns and translates, all on its own. Here we have the climb to that one meter height before we turn around and then do our translation.
Amy Kwan: (33:15)
And then by 2019, we took all the data from all our prior flights and tested the helicopter that’s now on Mars. This is video from that test. What you may notice is there’s a string coming from the top of the helicopter. We use that to mimic gravity on Mars. So it’s giving the helicopter just a slight boost so that the rotors are only lifting the Mars weight of that helicopter. Think about it like if you’re helping a child on the playground cross the monkey bars and they can’t quite hold on you’re holding, you’re just giving them a slight little boost.
Amy Kwan: (33:49)
To successfully conduct these tests, the helicopter team, how’d you predict how the helicopter would behave in that Martian atmosphere. Over the course of the test campaigns, the predictions got better and better based on the data from the prior tests. We’re looking forward to all the flight data coming back from Mars this weekend to tell us how accurate were our predictions and models. For instance, if we told the helicopter to climb at a certain rate, how fast did it actually climb? We’ll use that to refine the models that we can put into future aerial vehicles for Mars.
Amy Kwan: (34:19)
So in addition to that flight data coming back, we’re also really excited about the possibility of getting images of Ingenuity in flight on Mars. Elsa Jensen will tell us about the images that the Rover is going to be taking. Elsa?
Elsa Jensen: (34:35)
Thank you, Amy.
Elsa Jensen: (34:37)
It gives me the chills sitting here and thinking about the fact that on Sunday, my team and I are going to be taking images and video of you guys flying on Mars. It is such a privilege to be here. We are delighted to be supporting this courageous and inventive team. Our perspective really is that from the Rover, of sitting atop the mast with a Mastcam-Z cameras and looking at the Ingenuity, taking off for flight.
Elsa Jensen: (35:12)
So I’m part of a small team from Malin Space Science Systems in San Diego, and we operate the Mastcam-Z cameras. We are really part of a bigger team for the Mastcam-Z science team that spans worldwide and is led by Jim Bell at Arizona State University. Then of course, we’re part of this whole Rover team. There is 10 instruments on the Rover and getting all those instruments, the full Rover and the helicopter to Mars, has been a huge team effort, as you can imagine.
Elsa Jensen: (35:50)
So, the part that we’re really providing here is looking from our perch two meters above, six feet up, and at the Ingenuity helicopter, that is 65 meters away on Sunday. We’re just getting there, just about now, and we’ll be in a safe distance to support and record this flight. We just couldn’t be more delighted. If I could have the first graphic, please,
Elsa Jensen: (36:28)
This is a selfie and what I love about this is that we can see the Rover and Ingenuity helicopter, next to each other. You can really see their relationship on Mars. This is when they’re five meters apart and you can see the Ingenuity helicopters there. It’s about half a meter or 20 inches tall, and we’re close together as this selfies being taken. And the other thing I love about this selfie is that it was actually taken with our sister cameras at the end of the arm. That’s what you don’t see in this image because it’s a selfie, but that’s a camera.
Elsa Jensen: (37:07)
The Watson cameras on the Sherlock instrument and we built and operate that from Malin Space Science Systems in San Diego, as well, to support the Sherlock PI here at JPL, it’s Luther Beagle. And we work very closely together, our two teams along with the Ingenuity team and along with the other science teams and the Rover teams here at JPL. Every day, we’ve been operating a Mars now for 30 days, and it’s this whole choreographed dance that we do together. And it’s a privilege to be a part of.
Elsa Jensen: (37:42)
It is of course, a big team and it took us years to get here, to be ready for Sunday. And what I love about that is that we get to learn so much from each other and we’re planning and overcoming challenges. Some of the things we had to do to prepare for Sunday was really take this high resolution camera, you’ve seen the big panoramas. We generate so much data, but when you take a video, you have to figure out how do I get that kind of data throughput and still take six to seven images per second. And how do I do that in the same camera that’s doing these magnificent panoramas.
Elsa Jensen: (38:25)
So we had to make some hard choices. We had our systems engineer, Mike Caplinger, who was just figuring out how to eke out every performance that we could from this camera. And then when we came up with command sequences, that’s my team’s job, those will be tested in the test bed here at JPL, by Kim Saxon, our instrument engineer, who spent many nights and weekends in the test bed. That allowed us to learn, as Amy was explaining, what not to do and also what to do. So if I could have the next graphic, please. This is starting to set up what we can expect on Sunday. So this is a computer made graphic, right? This is what we simulate before we actually take the images and the videos. So what we’re looking for is figuring out, okay, is this going to work? What you see here is a little bit of the Rover in the foreground. And we’re looking out towards Ingenuity, these 65 meters or 200 feet away. This red frame that you’re seeing, is the actual framing of the picture of the video that we’ll be taking and we’re making sure of course that Ingenuity’s in it.
Elsa Jensen: (39:38)
What you probably can’t see here is that there’s a tiny helicopter in there, little graphic of it, and what we want to make sure of is that we catch the flight. Remember how Tim was explaining how they’re going to go up three meters, of course, about 10 feet up into the air. So we want to make sure we can catch that into our video. But as you can see, when you’re looking from the Rover, it’s going to be pretty small. Let’s zoom in and see what we can see. Here you go. Now, imagine this red frame again, is what we’re actually capturing in our video. Imagine that on your computer screen. Do you think you can see the helicopter? Can you find it there? Well, we’ll see on Sunday, check it out.
Elsa Jensen: (40:24)
As you can see, one of the other aspects of planning this, is that the helicopter is not actually in the middle of the picture because we’re expecting it to take flight. So these are the other details that we’ve been working out with the engineer and team. We have to, like I was explaining, we have to really week out the biggest performance we can from these cameras. It’s kind of like taking a bucket of water and you’re trying to drink from it with a straw. We have just a little bit of down link compared to the amount of data that we can generate. Even in this five minute video that we’ll be taking, there’s no way we could get it down on the ground. It would take us months if we did it at the same resolution and the same sharpness that we take our usual images that you’re used to seeing from the Mastcam-Z cameras.
Elsa Jensen: (41:14)
So we had to get pretty creative. We’re trying to get seven pictures a second. That’s our highest rate of video and that’s what we’ll be doing on Sunday. So we had to sub frame it. We had to take just part of the frame, about half the frame, then we had to compress it really hard. Ooh, we don’t like compression. We like to see all the details, but we have to do that for this otherwise, it just won’t work.
Elsa Jensen: (41:40)
And then another thing that we have to do is think about the amount of data we can get. So it would be nice to get the whole entire video down right away, but we don’t have the down link for that. So especially on Sunday or rather Monday morning as we’re getting them really early Monday morning, think about the fact that we had to select apriori, before even seeing, the images from Mars. We had to select which video frames to pick and choose in the blind, so that we could get just a few of them on Monday morning. We got to pick about six frames out of a five minute span, they’re little two and a half second snippets. We did it for the first time last night, actually. And what Tim showed you was one of the examples from the spin test and of the six frames that we guessed, two of them hit the jackpot.
Elsa Jensen: (42:39)
So that’s all we can do because we have about 20 seconds between our guesses. That’s what we’re doing so it can span more time. We were just ecstatic that we actually hit the jackpot the first time. Now on Sunday, like Mimi and Amy were explaining, we’re going to do our very best to do the same predicting and hopefully you’ll see a few snippets. Regardless of whether we hit the jackpot that first time, we’ll definitely get some images and we’ll also, over the next couple of days, we’ll get all of the video down. We’ll get it first in lower resolution and then in higher resolution.
Elsa Jensen: (43:22)
So what I want you to imagine also is that we actually have two different ways of taking video, at the same time. This image here, which actually this mosaic was created just last night with the images that came in by Jim Bell and RPI. He made a mosaic of this, it’s actually a mosaic, you can’t see it because it’s very well done. But this is kind of the closeup view. This is our highest resolution camera. This is the most zoomed in with the zoom cameras we can do. And we’re doing that with the left camera when we’re taking the video. And that’s great, we’ll see as much detail as we can with the compression that I mentioned, so keep that in mind. But Ingenuity will actually fly right out of the frame, if we only took images like this.
Elsa Jensen: (44:13)
So with the other camera, the right camera, if I can have the next graphic, please. So compare those two images and see that then the right camera would look at this. We’re having the most zoomed out view that we can. It’s going to be with a 34 millimeter zoom level. And so one is at 110 and one is at 34 millimeters and we’re taking those simultaneously. So that with this more zoomed out view, we won’t see as much detail, but we will, hopefully that’s our prediction, is that we’ll catch the whole flight with just the one frame.
Elsa Jensen: (44:49)
It would be nice if we could track it with the antenna, but we’re not allowed to do that because it could be interference between the different components, if we did that. So we’re going to stay completely safe. We are going to have a zoomed out and a zoomed in view. Then the first down link we’re going to do, like I said, we’re going to try to hit the jackpot with our best estimate of how to catch just a little bit of the zoomed out view. We thought that would be best because if it’s already flying as we’re catching it, we could have the best chance of giving you some great video on Sunday, Monday morning.
Elsa Jensen: (45:29)
All right. So just want to set expectations. This is really hard. We have practiced it, like Tim explained, between the Heli team and the Mastcam-Z team and the Rover team. We’ve been doing really well on these tests this week, actually. So we hope everything will go well on Sunday, but we know there’ll be surprises. That’s what we train for. That’s what we test for. There will be surprises and you will be learning about them right at the same time that we will. So, let’s all get the popcorn, sit in front of our seats on Sunday, Monday morning, and let’s see Ingenuity take flight. I’m so excited. We’re just delighted to be here with you. Thank you for having us come along. We’re going to be there supporting you from the Rover. Big Sister’s watching, and let’s go fly. Back to you Raquel.
Raquel Villanueva: (46:31)
Thank you, Elsa. And thank you to our panelists. We are now ready to take media questions. Remember to press star one, to get put in the queue and please direct your questions to one of the panelists. And we’re also taking questions through the Mars helicopter hashtag. Up first on the phone lines is Chris Davenport with the Washington Post.
Chris Davenport: (46:53)
Hey guys, thanks for taking my question. Can you hear me?
Raquel Villanueva: (46:58)
Yes, we can.
Chris Davenport: (46:59)
Great. I wonder if someone there maybe Mimi or Tim can just talk about the rotor blades specifically and how they’re able to generate a lift in that thin Martian atmosphere. I’m curious how long each of the four blades are and also how does the counter rotation work to allow lift? And then just generally, how big of a challenge is it to fly a vehicle, given the thin Martian atmosphere? Thanks so much.
MiMi Aung: (47:25)
Sure. I can take the first cut at this. So yeah, the blades are 1.2 meter, tip to tip and there are two pairs, counter-rotating. And the blade itself, the shape, the blade distribution, the core distribution, the twist, is carefully modeled. So the cross-section is the air foil that was adopted from AeroVironment’s high altitude aircraft vehicle, they’re on our team. We took that cross cut air foil, and then it was optimized in terms of how the blade would be shaped by CFD analysis and simulations at Ames and Langley.
MiMi Aung: (48:02)
And then that blade was analyzed, actually, in about 32 analytical slices. The lift and the drag was modeled for each of those pieces and integrated, and then simulated how the vehicle would react when you spin such a blade. So it was really optimized taking from that dynamic prediction of how the vehicle would react when you spin. Then Havard Grips, the JPL team, came back and then designed a closed loop control system around it to make sure that we sampled fast enough and send the controls back to control the blade pitch fast enough. It turns out it takes hundreds, about four or 500 times per second to design the closed loop control.
MiMi Aung: (48:44)
So yes, absolutely those blades are not something off the shelf. Really fine tuned to maximize the lift that we can generate in such a thin atmosphere. And one of the things that we did learn right off the bat, as you saw in the video that Amy showed, was the dynamics of spinning a blade in this thin atmosphere of Mars. This Reynolds numbers and Mach number pair, right, very specific to Mars, the reaction is very different from what we get on earth.
Raquel Villanueva: (49:15)
Great. Thank you. And up next, we have Marina Koren from The Atlantic.
Marina Koren: (49:22)
Hi everybody. This is a question I think for Mimi or Tim. So, once you’ve reached the end of your month of operations and Perseverance drives away, what happens to Ingenuity? And by that, I mean, will it technically be functional because it can still charge itself? How long can it remain technically alive on the surface? And has anyone considered having Percy return to visit Ingenuity someday?
MiMi Aung: (49:47)
I’ll take this. Ingenuity is a solar powered vehicle, therefore there are no consumables that can run out, so to speak. That’s one fact. But Ingenuity is also, it doesn’t have a self righting system, so if we do have a bad landing, that will be the end of mission.
MiMi Aung: (50:03)
… systems, so if we do have a bad landing, that would be the end of mission. So our estimate is that the lifetime will be determined by how well it lands, pretty much.
MiMi Aung: (50:10)
So we have 30 valuable days to do these experiment at Mars, and we are going to be, as Tim described, taking a very conservative flight to really nail the first flight. And after that, we’ll be taking bolder and bolder flights. We’ll be going higher, further. And in fact, by the fifth flight, if we get there, that far, we are going to take very bold flights and take high risk. And probabilities are, it would be unlikely to land safely because we’ll start going into un-surveyed areas.
MiMi Aung: (50:42)
And after that, after 30 days, even if Ingenuity is surviving, this increasing risk that we do plan to take, because we want to stretch and understand the capability of this little vehicle. Even if it survived, we are going to turn back the key back to the rover team. Ken Farley, our project scientist for Perseverance has been so generous, gave us 30 invaluable days on Mars. Perseverance really must go onto the primary mission that they’re on. So that’s the plan.
Raquel Villanueva: (51:12)
Thomas, would you also like to answer the question?
Thomas Zurbuchen: (51:16)
I just wanted to add the view on this, and it very much in support of what Mimi just said. I just want to go back to Sojourner and remind everybody that Sojourner also was a tech demonstration, a tech demonstration, by the way, without which we could not imagine Perseverance. We could not imagine Mars Sample Return, which was really pioneered with this. And for me, what Sojourner did, did exactly what Mimi just said, which is if you want aggressively punch out the space in which it can operate, taking risks, successively larger risks, and a month of ingenuity will really be a demonstration of the capability that is there and leading to the very success, I think, in the long run that Sojourner has, a success that, at the time of Sojourner, of course, was not imagined that we could be sitting here with Perseverance they’re on Mars Sample Return. Can you only imagine what will happen after this month of ingenuity, just two decades from now or one decade from now?
Raquel Villanueva: (52:23)
Thank you for your answers up next is Elizabeth Howell from space.com.
Elizabeth Howell: (52:28)
Hi, everyone. I think this question is for Mimi. If and when you get those first views from Ingenuity and Perseverance with a flight, what kind of feelings will it evoke in you? And also are you planning to use [Percy’s 00:52:40] microphones to record audio of the flight?
MiMi Aung: (52:43)
Right. I’ll give the first part and I’m going to have [Tim Canam 00:52:46] also jump in. So the images, it will be inspiring. It’s really hard to imagine how I’m going to feel because our team, to be frank, has never let ourselves fully because we’ve been waiting for really this first flight on Mars. So I believe I’ll be really excited to see. First and foremost, probably I’ll be more excited about the black and white camera image, because to me and a lot of majority of the team, most all of the team, it’s about this engineering technology demonstration and getting back that engineering data on how well did it fly, because to me, it is about the future. It is about adding that aero dimension. And do we model right? Is our analysis right? And more importantly, did we overlook anything? And what do we learn? How differently did it fly over there?
MiMi Aung: (53:37)
So for me, the black and white picture is going to be invaluable coupled with the IMU datas, altimeter data and the inclinometer data all combined, and how do we fly? And the color picture is going to be icing on the cake. So Tim, do you want to chime in a little bit about how you’re going to feel about seeing those camera images?
Tim Canham: (53:56)
Yeah, well, naturally the team’s been working really hard to be ready for this moment, and so when we see the data from that first flight [inaudible 00:54:04], it’ll be an incredible moment, the combination of all this work and all the hopes that we’ve put into it.
Tim Canham: (54:10)
And yes, Mimi’s right. The primary purpose of this project is to get that detailed engineering data that we can see the performance of the vehicle, and then that data can be used by future projects to make even bigger and better helicopters. But at the same time, getting a color image while in flight will be exciting from an outreach point of view. People will get to get that aerial view of what the helicopter is seeing, and it’ll be amazing. You’ve seen that picture that we’ve had out. Can you imagine that picture being that nice 13 megapixel picture? We’re seeing the dirt right now, in essence, but as we go along to three meters and then eventually to five meters, getting that panoramic view of Mars from 15 meters up will be amazing.
Tim Canham: (54:51)
And there was a question about the microphone, super cam, the instrument has a microphone, and we’re not going to do it on the first flight, but we’re in discussions about subsequent flights, maybe using that camera microphone to point near where the helicopter is and try and get some audio. It’s very touch and go as to whether we would even hear anything at that distance. But as I said, discussions are ongoing. We might give it a try. Worst comes to worst, we’ll get a lot of nothing, but who knows? Maybe we’ll catch the sound of the helicopter lifting off.
Raquel Villanueva: (55:21)
Great. Thanks Tim. And thank you Mimi. Up next is [Paul Brickman 00:55:25] with UPI.
Chris Davenport: (55:28)
Yeah. Hi, thanks. Just a little bit more about the images. So I guess this question is for [Elsa Jensen 00:55:37], but how do the helicopter and the Rover transmit images? Do they communicate with each other back and forth, and what is that link like? And then, do I understand correctly that at the early morning press conferences, we’re only going to have black and white images? Is that correct?
Elsa Jensen: (55:57)
Great questions. There’s [inaudible 00:55:59] two parts to what you’re asking. So the part that we’re doing from the Mastcam-Z side, again, perched up at the top of the rover, we’re going to be looking with our Mastcam-Z cameras. They’re in color. We’re going to use the color filters, the RGB for that. So all of our images and our video will be in color.
Elsa Jensen: (56:18)
Now, that imagery will be sent from the rover to the orbiter back to earth, so there’s that whole path. And then the other part of what you’re asking, I’ll pass on to Tim, because that has to do with the images coming from Ingenuity, and the helicopter team is taking those images. So Tim, do you want to address that part?
Tim Canham: (56:38)
Sure. In many ways, we follow a similar path as Mastcam-Z. The helicopter does its flights and it’s taking this detailed data during the flight, and then we land. But right after the flight, we have used up a lot of our battery energy, so we don’t have a lot of excess energy to spend time transmitting the data back to the rover. And so on that first transmission day, the first downlink day, we’re going to concentrate in getting back that detailed engineering data so that the team can analyze what happened. And part of that engineering data is that black and white downward pointing camera because that’s used by the team to relocalize the helicopter, to figure out exactly where it landed.
Tim Canham: (57:21)
But the data follows a very similar path in that the helicopter has a radio link back to the rover. We have our helicopter base station on the rover, which has its own storage. And then that storage gets copied back to the rover and then sent down to earth. So on that first sol, we’re going to transmit those black and white images. We’re going to get summary data of the flight. We don’t have, again, the time to transmit on the radio the very detailed logs of the flight. And then we’re going to let the helicopter go to sleep and recharge its batteries.
Tim Canham: (57:51)
On the following sol , that’s when we’re going to wake the helicopter back up, and we’re going to transmit that color image back to the rover for downlink to earth. So that’s the first time we’ll see it. And then in subsequent sols, we’ll be transferring more and more of that very detailed engineering data that’s kind of the prize of this project and doing even deeper analysis on that. So the helicopter and the Mastcam-Z don’t talk in the sense that the two devices on the rover don’t talk, but of course, Elsa and our team have been talking a lot about how to synchronize our timing to make sure that the Mastcam-Z gets the images at the right time, so there’s human synchronization, but not necessarily rover to heli synchronization. And Elsa and her team have been very excited, and we’ve been very excited at the great images we’ve seen from them.
Raquel Villanueva: (58:38)
Up next, we have Andrea Leinfelder from Houston Chronicle.
Andrea Leinfelder: (58:44)
Hi, thank you. This question is for Mimi. I was hoping you could help us understand a little more just why it’s hard to fly in the [inaudible 00:58:53] Martian atmosphere. I get that it has to be lighter and faster, but why exactly? What is it that makes it difficult?
MiMi Aung: (59:00)
Yes. So a rotocraft flies by generating lift, right? And on Earth, it’s by pushing air. So the blades push the air and the lift is generated. So on Mars, where the atmospheric density is so thin, about 1% compared to here, there are less molecules basically to push, right? And so that means that we have to compensate. For flying a vehicle, we have to spin so much faster than we do.
MiMi Aung: (59:31)
So if you take a four pound vehicle on earth, you don’t have to spin it 2,400, 2,500 RPM that we have to spin on Mars to generate the lift. So that’s the first and foremost. Just aerodynamically, it is extremely difficult to generate lift when there isn’t enough atmospheric elements to generate lift from. So in fact, that’s why a helicopter hasn’t been developed to fly on Mars up to now because for a vehicle of this kind of capability, being able to generate lift, to lift a 1.8 kilogram, four pounds on Earth kind of vehicle, and in the meantime to be able to control it. Control the blades hundreds of times per second, measuring with the sensors and calculating the algorithm of the computers, and surviving on its own, being able to communicate, like Tim was describing. All of that energy, solar panels, all of that together to be that light. We just couldn’t do it 15, 20 years ago for a 1.8 kilogram limit.
Raquel Villanueva: (01:00:33)
Great. Thanks Mimi. Up next, we have Irene Klotz with Aviation Week.
Irene Klotz: (01:00:39)
Good morning or afternoon. I have a question for Mimi. Overall, what do you think the chances are of a successful flight? And what do you think is risky as part of the demo?
MiMi Aung: (01:00:54)
Sure. This is definitely a high risk, high reward, as Thomas mentioned in the beginning, experiment. So probabilities are much higher now. I think the whole question has been, we knew at launch that it is possible for Ingenuity to fly in the atmospheric condition and the terrain that it’s going to observe and in the environment from all our mathematical, analytical modeling and testing in the chamber that Amy described. So the confidence is high there because we’ve done it in simulated environment on Mars as much as we can.
MiMi Aung: (01:01:29)
Between then and now has been checking back off. The way we did build Ingenuity, the parts we selected and the assumptions we made, how good were they? And so far, and I keep knocking on wood, because we have to get there first, they’ve been great. It turned on well in vacuum, space vacuum. To me, we were still holding the breath. Does it work in vacuum? It worked great. After landing, great. Did it deploy, and did it survive deployment from Perseverance? It did. And the biggest question has been, do we have enough energy? Do we have the solar panel performance and the battery sizing correct? And do we estimate how much energy it took to survive the night? We have received check marks for all of them, and the last few sols has been about checking the rotor system, that did the rotor system survive the journey, and is it there the way we launched it from Earth?
MiMi Aung: (01:02:19)
So far, it looks like it because you’ve seen the 50 RPM spin, and then tonight is the big one. When we spin the full speed on the surface, still while on the surface, and that will ultimately check that this vehicle is there in the way that we launched it. If that is the case, then the uncertainty, the only uncertainty remained the actual environment of Mars. So the winds, and we talked a little bit about it. We’ve been talking to the MEDA team, cross-checking with the weather. So depending on the wind, and, in that case, we’ll be pretty confident. But again, I want to be conservative. We have never let ourselves celebrate, so really looking forward to Sunday.
Raquel Villanueva: (01:03:01)
Great, thanks Mimi. We have some social questions coming in as well. Aaron on Facebook wants to say hi from his nine-year-old son Charlie, and Charlie wants to know, do you have a Mars helicopter 2.0 invented? Thomas, would you like to…
Thomas Zurbuchen: (01:03:20)
So, hey, hi back. I have to tell you, we’re thinking about that right now, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s thinking about it. The one thing you need to know is that we are already working on another craft, and it’s going to go to this moon called Titan. Titan is actually different than Mars because of the fact that, actually, if you go close to the ground of it, the pressure is actually higher than the pressure on earth. So it also is a rotocraft, called Dragonfly, by the way. That’s what it’s called. Go Google it, figure it out. It will also fly and explore. It’s a much heavier type of vehicle. But Mimi, I’m sure you’re already thinking about the 2.0, and your team. Is there anything you wanted to add?
MiMi Aung: (01:04:12)
Absolutely. There is ongoing research led by JPL, but part of the team, JPL, and [Aims 01:04:21], AeroVironment has been looking into future larger vehicles. And the vision is, we have Ingenuity 1.2 meter diameter and future vehicles that have been sized are more three meters, three and a half meter diameter, much larger. And in the 10, 15 kilogram class, able to carry payloads two kilogram level to make a significant exploration. So that kind of research is afoot, and yes, this is all about the future. This is a pathfinder, absolutely.
Raquel Villanueva: (01:04:52)
Thank you. Sounds like an exciting future ahead. Up next on the phone lines is Robert Hotz with Wall Street Journal.
Robert Hotz: (01:04:59)
Hi, I guess this is the question for Mimi or perhaps Tim. You’ve said that one of the controlling factors for picking the time of the flight on Sunday are the wind conditions that you expect in Jezero Crater based on measurements you’ve been getting from MEDA, the onboard meteorological sensors. So I wonder if you can tell us what are the winds? What’s the range that you’ve been getting in the crater? You say that you might encounter winds higher there than you’ve tested for on Earth. What is the highest you’ve tested for on Earth? And what does a Martian wind do in terms of flight control challenges that might be different than you’d experience on Earth? The wind, please. Thank you.
MiMi Aung: (01:05:46)
Sure. I can start, and then I’m going to let Amy fill in too on the test. So yes, Martian wind, first of all, impact the dynamics of the vehicle. So we have a closely controlled system and it’s the disturbance that we do model analytically. And we like to also test by exposing to actual wind to confirm. And so far the MEDA data, and this is very initial data because MEDA team is calibrating their information. And so based on data, because it’s so early in the game, we have very large uncertainty. So the averages that we have expected are, I believe around six meters per second, or less, average, but then you need to add three Sigma uncertainty to it because it is a very early part of the calibration. And so if you add three Sigma and the uncertainty, it could be high around the 20 meter per second range, or it could be low. I mean, it’s [inaudible 01:06:49] right? It could be much less than six meters per second. It could be in the 20 meters per second range. The air reaches about six meters per second or so.
MiMi Aung: (01:06:57)
But we tested our system to 11 meters per second, that Amy will describe. It’s an art in itself, but that’s for the testing. Now, we also did the simulation under [inaudible 01:07:09] team, have simulated the closed loop control with winds up to close to 30 meters per second. And the closed loop control has margin to fight and be resilient towards the higher perturbation than what we were able to test. So at Earth, you can only test so much, and our limit has been how to set it up. So Amy, I’m going to hand it over to you. Amy was actually in charge of this wind test.
Amy Kwan: (01:07:37)
So we did a wind test as part of our battery of tests in that 25 foot space simulator. What we did to generate this wind is we put together a large bank of computer fans. It was actually almost 900 of them. Can you imagine a raid blowing up this helicopter? So we achieved that 11 meters per second that Mimi was talking about. Our goal was at least 10 meters per second when we put this together. So we were able to test the controller against that speed, which I believe is above the average that Mimi quoted, but not necessarily with the three Sigma added.
Raquel Villanueva: (01:08:15)
Great. And up next is Lisa Grossman with Science News.
Lisa Grossman: (01:08:22)
Hi, thanks for taking my question. I was wondering about the specific timeline for getting the video and the images back to Earth and back to us. And I was also wondering why there’s that checkerboard pattern on the rotor blade?
MiMi Aung: (01:08:34)
Okay. Many people, I’ll leave it to Elsa and Tim to answer the timeline, and then I can take the checkerboard.
Elsa Jensen: (01:08:41)
Okay. Yeah, I will start out, and Tim, you can add some more detail. We will be getting the first video snippets that I described. Like I mentioned, we were able to pick about somewhere between six and 10, depending on our results tonight, we’ll be picking those out. Each of those snippets are two and a half seconds, and we have to space them about 20 seconds apart over the range of when we think the flight could happen. So those will come down very close to midnight on Monday, California time that is.
Elsa Jensen: (01:09:20)
The images, there will also be probably just one image pair from after the flight. We take images before the flight to make sure that we have how everything was looking before the flight. Then we take the video during the flight. And then after we take a control image, if you will, and then we can blink the before and after together and see, okay, how did those two compare? That’s of course been sitting on the surface right now until now. So those have been easy blinks that you’ve seen with the rotors rotating. That’s been the before and after image that have been taken maybe an hour apart. And then more data will be trickling in over the next days as we can get more downlink from Mars overnight, especially we have some very big passes with the TGO orbiter, and we are just taking all the downlink we can get from all the orbiters so we can get back as much as possible. And Tim, did you want to add anything to that?
Tim Canham: (01:10:24)
No, I think our pattern is similar. We of course are going to be taking these images during our flight and storing them on the storage that’s on the helicopter, but we’re going to be downloading those different images over the course of a few days. As I mentioned earlier, for the flight itself, we’re going to be downlinking one or two of those downward facing images as we come in for a landing. That way we can help figure out where exactly where the helicopter landed. So that will come down in a similar timeframe as the rest of the helicopter performance data on that first sol. And then on the second sol, after, we will be downlinking that color image, so that we’ll be able to look at that.
Tim Canham: (01:11:04)
And then on the sols after that, there are actually some more of those black and white images that we took, actually while we’re aloft. Because one of the things we want to do is to validate the algorithm used to detect those features on the ground, so the engineering team of the helicopter, the guidance team, can take those images that we took aloft, look at the features, and then look at that high rate telemetry that we took that is actually telling us what features it thought it saw and able to correlate that with the images that we took, and then see how well they’re able to perform, but it’s going to be a multi-sol operation. And the most important one on that first sol is that one black and white that will help us localize where the helicopter landed.
MiMi Aung: (01:11:49)
To the question on the blade, absolutely, those [inaudible 01:11:53] are there, and it’s all comes from mass constraint. 1.8. Kilograms is 1800 grams. With so many components, every bit mattered, right? So the blades themselves are, I believe, about 35 grams. It’s really, really light. They just look big and long, but they’re really light. And the way it was built was a foam core in the middle with carbon fiber layup, so that we could have both the lightweight, but still the strength to be able to push. Then as the atmosphere is… You’re still pushing 2,400, 2,500 RPM, right? And so it has to be strong. And also from the controls perspective, for modeling and testing that we talk about to do in the chamber, it had to also be stiff so that we really had a way to confirm our models before we actually even tried a test flight in the chamber. So for stiffness, strength, and lightweight, the carbon fiber layup was used also above the foam and it’s cross patterned to give it the most strength. So that’s the reason for the cross pattern that you’re seeing. Instead of going fibers in parallel, the cross pattern really gives it additional strength. And AeroVironment did a fantastic job building this blade. So first it was carefully designed with the twist-core distribution and then fabricated fabulously with these requirements.
Raquel Villanueva: (01:13:14)
Thank you. And up next is [Alexander Witts 01:13:17] with Nature Magazine.
Alexander Witts: (01:13:20)
Hi, I just want to follow up real briefly on Lisa’s question about the timing. There’s a difference between images and video downlinking and images and video being released to the public. Do we anticipate getting any images released to the public prior to that 8:00 AM press conference on Monday in California?
Thomas Zurbuchen: (01:13:41)
So this is Thomas. I’m going to start and I’m going to kick it over. Our intent is to keep the pipeline open just the way we have in the past. So basically the images as they come down, they will go into the pipeline and they’ll be open… There may be some technical reasons that something is slightly delayed, and I’ll open it up for you to add to that. But the principle is that after… my hope, many of you will join us us on nasa.gov/live as we kind of join the team during this historic moment. There’ll be some images there. The images will come in, and by the time we do the press conference, we’ll put together, the best way we know how, but I’m sure others will try themselves with the images that are there. The pipeline will be open, Alex. Go ahead if anybody wants to add anything.
Elsa Jensen: (01:14:35)
Yes. I’ll just add a few snippets to that, which is, our team is going to be pouncing on the data as it comes in. We are just looking at, as soon as it comes in, as soon as it starts to hit. In fact, as it comes in from the orbiters, we’re already starting to look at. And of course, our first and foremost priority is to make sure everything worked as expected, that the cameras are working, that everything-
Elsa Jensen: (01:15:03)
[inaudible 01:15:00] to make sure everything worked as expected, that the cameras are working, that everything is healthy. We do that every single day. But on this occasion especially, we’re going to look for those first images post-flight to also help in the ascertaining of the success of it and then the video snippets that we hope will catch part of the flight. So that’s the one that comes in right after midnight and it’s always such a precious downlink because, as we call it, it’s decisional, which means that it can go into decision making for the next day. And then orbiters, there’ll be other orbiter downlinks throughout the day on Monday to add to the pot, if you will.
Elsa Jensen: (01:15:46)
Of course, we have to actually collect the zeros and ones and create images. So there’s a few minutes of delay before it gets to the public website, but otherwise, we are just trying to get it out to the public as quickly as possible. Go to the JPL Raw Images website and I know that there’ll also be our science team, other science team members, and [inaudible 01:16:13] JPL will be standing. He’s actually the image scientist and he’s one of the top processors of data. He’s the one you always seen when we land, he’s the first one to bring up an image. He’ll be there at the press conference to serve everybody up with the latest images that we have. So there will be images very quickly. I can’t say the timeline exactly because we will simply process it and give it out to you guys as soon as we can.
Thomas Zurbuchen: (01:16:46)
If you don’t mind, I’ll go one more time. And I just want to just ask you all who are excited about these images for patience in a sense that the good people that you hear talking about it, their entire teams will at work at whatever is that the speed that they can to get this out. But just because of the sheer amount of images, there will be some delays obviously, but it’s not because of any other reason then the team needs to work through it and make the data useful as it gets out. So I just want to ask the public for patience as we work through this, again, during this pandemic period and that still at times makes it a little bit harder to get things out. Just want to tell you that I have been just so proud of what the team has done from the moment we have landed on Mars, getting these pipelines opened there and getting so many excited around the entire earth, getting excited working with data and trying themselves to find out new things about Mars.
Elsa Jensen: (01:17:54)
That’s right. And I also want to add actually, your comments are reminding me how much we actually enjoy the interaction with the public about this. We’re seeing our images go out and immediately people are creating mosaics from the images or they’re creating their own enhancements of the images. And we really enjoy that. We look at those images as well. We talk about them, hey, did you see so-and-so did this? And in a sense, we are immediately sharing our data, our gold from Mars, with everybody and that’s part of the experience for us is that we get to share it. It gives such a perspective to us.
Elsa Jensen: (01:18:36)
We have really cool jobs, I think we can all agree on that, but we are like nose to the grindstone every day, working on this. And so when we get to share with the public today and all the times when we send out data, that gives us that perspective, that gives us that connection with the public and my PI, Jim Bell, who used to be the president of the Planetary Society, is hugely supportive and engaged in public outreach. And it’s just a part and parcel of our team. So go to our website, too, go to the NASA raw images website. We are starting a favorites area of our website that we hope and know will grow over time. And we’ve also encouraged input actually from the public to that website. So just like I worked on the Juno mission as well and that’s one of the missions that pioneered the input of public images to the website, the official website, we’re doing that with [inaudible 01:19:34] as well. And we want to see what you guys are doing, we want to see how you are relating to our data and what you get out of it. So stay in touch.
Raquel Villanueva: (01:19:46)
Thank you. And that website they are mentioning is go.nasa.gov/perseverance-raw-images. We will again run it at the end of this broadcast. So you will be able to see this link once more towards the end, but we do have the phone lines up still open and up next is Jeff Foust with Space News.
Chris Davenport: (01:20:11)
Hi, question for [MiMi 01:20:13]. Assuming that this flight Sunday goes as planned, is successful, how soon do you think you would be ready to perform a second flight? And what is the process to review the data from the first flight and then plan for the second, presumably more ambitious flight? Thanks.
MiMi Aung: (01:20:32)
Excellent. Yes, the cadence between flights will be four days after to the first flight. And then if we are happy with that, we’ll go on to three day cadence. So meaning after the first flight we’re going to let the vehicle have a rest day so that we can again confirm the energy model after its very first flight. So that’s different just for the first flight. And as Tim [inaudible 01:21:02] mentioned, we start to bring a high rate data back over the two days after that. And that’s where our treasure is. And I have to emphasize this. It really is about the engineering data as much as we can to confirm our model. So that’s when we get our flight sensor, how well did we perform as well as that icing, those color pictures will come in. So rest after the first flight, rest and then for the vehicle rest, we won’t be, we look at all the data, see how the performance were, and we will be ready to fly the fourth day after the first flight. And then after the second flight, then we will just be in three day cadence, fly, the next day get the first set of high rate data, and then the next day after that, get the last bit of the high rate data. And in those two days following, we’ll be ready for the third flight, the fourth flight, et cetera.
MiMi Aung: (01:21:55)
Oh, in terms of more ambitious flight, absolutely, as Tim mentioned, we’ll go up to three meters in hover, but in the future once, we’ll go up to five meters, start going laterally, first modestly, and then we’ll go on further to 50 meter out and back. And then once we get to fourth and fifth flight, we’ll have fun. We really want to [inaudible 01:22:15], we really want to push our vehicle to the limit. It’s not every day that you get to test a rotorcraft and do an experiment on Mars. So after the third flight, just warning, we are going to be very adventurous.
Tim Canham: (01:22:28)
Go crazy with it, yeah.
Raquel Villanueva: (01:22:30)
Well, thank you for that answer, MiMi. And we have a social media question coming in, Tim on Facebook asks, will the weather station on the rover allow or deny the flight if wind is excessive? It’s a question for Tim from Tim.
Tim Canham: (01:22:48)
Sure. Well, hello Tim. This is Tim. Nice to meet you. So the meta instrument has its own data set that, again, follows a path where they take the data and then they downlink it to earth and the [meta 01:23:02] team decodes all that data on their own. So the weather on Mars tends to be more or less the same across many [inaudible 01:23:08]. When we go to weather report as a team, it’s really getting a history of the weather plus those wind predictions that MiMi mentioned. So because it’s really these two separate teams processing their data, the weather station on the rover has no decision making process on the day of the flight to stop or allow the flight. There’s no connection on board the Rover where the weather station can tell the helicopter, you can’t fly today. So that connection isn’t there, it relies on the experts on the ground on both teams to decode the data and come to these reasoned engineering judgements as to whether or not we should fly.
Raquel Villanueva: (01:23:46)
Great. Thank you, Tim. And we have another social media question. [inaudible 01:23:50] on Facebook asks, what is the speed of sound on Mars and can the tip of the Ingenuity blades exceed this speed. Mimi?
MiMi Aung: (01:24:02)
Yeah, we are going to be flying at about 0.6 mach on Mars. And I’ve done this math before, but I don’t remember the number, [Thomas 01:24:14] if you remember, but if you look up, just calculate, but it will be about 0.6. the speed of sound is how the tip speed will be. And so you can Google it. I have looked it up and I just don’t remember the number. So yes, please look it up, 0.6 mach on Mars. Good question. And yes, the entire design for the upper limit on how fast we can spin in designing the entire system, we took the speed of sound at Mars into account.
Raquel Villanueva: (01:24:46)
Great. Thanks, MiMi. We’ll work on getting you those exact numbers. Up next on the phone line is Matt Caplin from Planetary Radio.
Robert Hotz: (01:24:54)
Hi, everyone. Thank you for this. Really thrilled looking forward to Sunday. Going back to Thomas’ comment about Dragonfly, maybe Mars and Titan don’t have a lot in common, but MiMi, I’m wondering if you are trading information with those folks and I’m sure they have high hopes for your success.
MiMi Aung: (01:25:14)
Oh, yes. In fact, [Michael Riskevich 01:25:19], who leads the space division in APL where Dragonfly’s being developed, Michael Riskevich was our independent review team chair throughout the lifetime of Ingenuity, [inaudible 01:25:32] development over the years. So yes. And while Dragonfly is flying in the thicker atmosphere, so it’s a different kind of vehicle, it’s heavier, at Mars, it’s all about being light and more autonomous and it’s a different kind of challenge. However, where we can learn from each other is with being the first rotorcraft and a flying vehicle on another planet or in the case, around a moon with atmosphere, but not at earth, it has been a challenge as Amy described. And I think, and describe more, how do you test this vehicle? So you have the fundamental models. Yes, you spin, you generate lift and control fast enough, you can fly. Easier said than done. How do we go about testing it? And we’ve had incremental steps in how do you spin it? How do you measure the force? Check the [inaudible 01:26:27] cancellation. I think that methodology that we’ve had to invent in parallel to inventing a first aerial vehicle for a planetary exploration that will be very much applicable. And Michael Riskevich is very familiar and I’m sure we’ll be interacting further as they go into the V&V phase. We’ve had initial conversations as well.
Raquel Villanueva: (01:26:48)
Thank you. And up next on the phone lines is Dan Sweet from Rotor Magazine.
Dan Sweet: (01:26:56)
Good afternoon. I appreciate the enthusiasm each of you are showing for your segments of the mission. I can’t even imagine what this is like for you. My question is for MiMi, Tim, or Amy. You’ve developed some pretty interesting new technology for ingenuity, including the high altitude flight, the high rotor speed and the feature tracking camera for navigation. How do you anticipate this technology might translate to advanced air mobility or urban air mobility flight that’s currently being developed here on earth?
Raquel Villanueva: (01:27:27)
MiMi, would you like to take that question?
MiMi Aung: (01:27:29)
Well, actually this is a great question for ARMDs revolutionary vertical lift technology program manager, Susan Gordon. She’s not here, but ARMD really participated in the fundamental flying in a high altitude, this very, very thin atmosphere and increment. And one of the overlap on earth would be for a high altitude flight, but Susan would be able to answer this question. For example, flying in Himalayas, we can’t get above a certain heights. And so introducing this kind of in a very thin, high, high mark number operation in this very thin atmosphere, that [inaudible 01:28:13]. So it would be applicable to very high altitude applications. That would be one example, but really, this is a great answer for ARMD.
Thomas Zurbuchen: (01:28:23)
Yeah, I think that they should really answer that, but I just want to tell you, I’ve been dreaming about a movie taking of one of these amazingly high mountains that has been so many stories have been about and actually seeing that kind of drone flying up that cliff. I just have been dreaming about this and I’m sure there’s entrepreneurs, innovators out there who are thinking about this together with, of course, the work that we’re doing within the government. Once this test hopefully is successful there, there are new applications that are there, also here on earth, applications that we need to think of now, applications that nobody else really made a reality as of yet.
Raquel Villanueva: (01:29:11)
All right, thank you so much for all your questions. We unfortunately can’t answer all the media questions on air. For those of you with additional questions, please call JPL’s digital news and media office. We’ll also continue to answer social media questions online and thank you all for all your questions coming in and thank you to our panelists for joining us today. Ingenuity will attempt its first powered controlled flight no earlier than April 11th. If the helicopter flies on April 11th, a live stream where you can watch Ingenuity engineers analyze their first data from that test flight, it will begin at 12:30 am Pacific time on April 12th, an early morning there. For the latest helicopter schedule visit go. nasa.gov/ingenuity. There’s a watch online section there where you can get broadcast updates. And to learn more about the Perseverance rover visit mars.nasa.gov/perseverance. And like Thomas and [Elsa 01:30:17] mentioned before, for raw images from the Perseverance rover at visit, go.nasa.gov/perseverance-raw-images. Now, the sheer volume of images coming down after the first flight, it’s going to take time to come through to the public website. They will come down, but we ask that you be patient as they load throughout the day. And if you’re on social media, join the conversation about the helicopter by following @NASAJPL and use the hashtag MarsHelicopter. Thanks for watching.
Speaker 1: (01:31:06)
Wherever, however, whenever, we’re here, there, we’re everywhere. NASA Space Communications and Navigation, exploration enabled.
Carol Scott: (01:31:34)
Hi, I’m Carol Scott and I help astronauts get to the International Space Station. And this is Ask NASA.
Speaker 2: (01:31:47)
Lift off of the Falcon 9 and Crew Dragon, go NASA, go SpaceX, God speed, Bob and Doug.
Carol Scott: (01:31:55)
Launch America is all about utilizing our commercial companies to be able to launch astronauts to the International Space Station from America’s soil on American made rockets. So this is a unique partnership that the government has formed with the commercial partners. We are leading and guiding them. We have provided SpaceX and Boeing. We’ve given them some requirements and including where they’ve got to meet design and construction standards. Oh, there’s tons and tons and tons of innovation going on. And the way that we’re doing this allows the partners to be able to innovate even more. They’re able to get that performance from some new technologies that they have on board. All those degrees of freedom are part of this commercial partnership and it’s awesome. This is a historic launch because this is the first time that we’ve ever launched utilizing the commercial partners. We’re buying a seat for astronauts. And so this is new. Just like if you were trying to buy a seat on an airline, this is going to allow for a lot more access to space from other commercial partners, from other maybe potential tourism. And then in future generations, it’ll be available to a lot more folks just like you and I.
My name is Benjamin and I am going to be a fifth grader next year. What can my generation expect for Launch America?
Carol Scott: (01:33:19)
Ben, back in the 1920s and 1930s, the government [inaudible 01:33:22] how we move mail. And that’s how we got the airline industry started. And so this’ll be a very similar path with commercial space. You’re going to see a huge economic boom by NASA being able to transfer all this information to the commercial partners and letting them innovate to meet their business needs. And eventually, they’re going to take additional passengers, just like the airlines did back then, additional passengers and you will be able to go to space. You are going to see human launches happening quite a bit here on the space coast. We want to rotate every six months, having astronaut crews go up to the International Space Station. NASA still has a team of astronauts, but we have the capability to have commercial astronauts on board. So for instance, if you looked at Boeing, Boeing has Chris Ferguson who was the last shuttle commander. He is one of their astronauts who will be taken the crew up in their CST-100 to the Space Station. So we can accommodate both NASA astronauts and commercial astronauts. And I believe you’ll see a growing field of commercial astronauts very soon. Future missions are going to be revolutionized by this process here. We’re going to be able to get more people up on Space Station. We’re going to get it to full capacity of personnel. And this will allow us to get more research done on the Space Station, getting more science, which will also help us here on earth.
Carol Scott: (01:34:44)
With industry helping us get our astronauts to the International Space Station, NASA can focus on getting our first woman and the next man to the moon. We are absolutely using the commercial partners to be able to help us reach the moon. So they’re going to be helping us with our human lander systems and being able to take cargo and supplies to the moon’s surface and that’ll be ready for our crews to be able to use. So the hardest part of going to space, there’s several different sections of it. If you were ground systems, it’s all about launching. But then you’ve got to be able to go through all the dynamic environments and being able to actually get into orbit. And then actually you got to go make it to your destination. So you’ve got to have all your guided systems ready to take you where you want to go. And then you got to live in space. But then you’ve got to be able to return them safely when they’re ready to come back from being on Station.
Speaker 3: (01:35:43)
Do you have a question for NASA? Send your questions to our experts on Twitter using hashtag AskNASA.
Speaker 4: (01:36:00)
When did the exploration of space begin? At what time did men first conceive the journey to the moon? For thousands of years, the astrologers, the philosophers, the writers of fiction, have dreamed-