Ingenuity is airborne (as is oxygen) on Mars
It was a big week for NASA and Mars. Ingenuity, the helicopter that hitched a ride to Mars on the belly of Perseverance (check out our post), officially claimed the title of first powered flight on another planet! A day later, the Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment (MOXIE) created oxygen.
On 19 April 2021, Ingenuity launched and hovered 3 metres above the ground. Perseverance was hanging out nearby on Van Zyl Overlook to record the moment and share it with Earth.
A second test flight completed on the 22nd of April (climbing to 5 metres), and a third on the 25th of April. During the third flight, Ingenuity lifted 5 metres of the ground and flew a 50-metre return trip. It was airborne for a total of 80 seconds! In a fun turn of events, Ingenuity snapped a shot of Perseverance on Mars during its flight.
Ingenuity will have the chance to fly two more times before NASA deems that Perseverance has to get on with the rest of its mission.
And the future for launching astronauts off Mars
On 20 April 2021, MOXIE produced 5 grams of oxygen (~10 minutes of breathable air). I’m not going to make a joke about pulling it out of thin air… but actually, that’s kind of what happened. Creating oxygen on Mars is pretty key for ever launching astronauts back off the planet. To take off, they would need about 7 metric tons (15,000 pounds) of rocket fuel and 25 metric tons (55,000 pounds) of oxygen. It’s not really feasible to ship that much oxygen from Earth to Mars, so creating it on-planet is necessary.
MOXIE is another first for NASA. It’s the first time oxygen has been created on another planet.
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