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Ingenuity Mars helicopter prepares for first historical flight

Inside Telecom Staff

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Ingenuity Mars Helicopter

NASA is targeting no earlier than April 8 for the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter to make the first attempt at powered, controlled flight of an aircraft on another planet. Before the 4-pound (1.8-kilogram) rotorcraft can attempt its first flight, however, both it and its team must meet a series of daunting milestones.

Ingenuity remains attached to the belly of NASA’s Perseverance rover, which touched down on Mars Feb. 18. On March 21, the rover deployed the guitar case-shaped graphite composite debris shield that protected Ingenuity during landing.

The rover currently is in transit to the “airfield” where Ingenuity will attempt to fly. Once deployed, the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter will have 30 Martian days, or sols, (31 Earth days) to conduct its test flight campaign.

“When NASA’s Sojourner rover landed on Mars in 1997, it proved that roving the Red Planet was possible and completely redefined our approach to how we explore Mars. Similarly, we want to learn about the potential Ingenuity has for the future of science research,” said Lori Glaze, director of the Planetary Science Division at NASA Headquarters.

“Aptly named, Ingenuity is a technology demonstration that aims to be the first powered flight on another world and, if successful, could further expand our horizons and broaden the scope of what is possible with Mars exploration,” Glaze added.

Flying in a controlled manner on Mars is far more difficult than flying on Earth.

The Red Planet has significant gravity (about one-third that of Earth’s) but its atmosphere is just 1 percent as dense as Earth’s at the surface.

During Martian daytime, the planet’s surface receives only about half the amount of solar energy that reaches Earth during its daytime, and nighttime temperatures can drop as low as minus 130 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 90 degrees Celsius), which can freeze and crack unprotected electrical components.

To fit within the available accommodations provided by the Perseverance rover, the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter must be small. To fly in the Mars environment, it must be lightweight. To survive the frigid Martian nights, it must have enough energy to power internal heaters.

The system – from the performance of its rotors in rarified air to its solar panels, electrical heaters, and other components – has been tested and retested in the vacuum chambers and test labs of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California.

“Every step we have taken since this journey began six years ago has been uncharted territory in the history of aircraft,” said Bob Balaram, Mars Helicopter chief engineer at JPL. “And while getting deployed to the surface will be a big challenge, surviving that first night on Mars alone, without the rover protecting it and keeping it powered, will be an even bigger one.”

The First Flight Test on Mars

Once the team is ready to attempt the first flight, Perseverance will receive and relay to Ingenuity the final flight instructions from JPL mission controllers.

Several factors will determine the precise time for the flight, including modeling of local wind patterns plus measurements taken by the Mars Environmental Dynamics Analyzer (MEDA) aboard Perseverance.

The Ingenuity Mars Helicopter will run its rotors to 2,537 rpm and, if all final self-checks look good, lift off.  After climbing at a rate of about 3 feet per second (1 meter per second), the helicopter will hover at 10 feet (3 meters) above the surface for up to 30 seconds.

Then, the Mars Helicopter will descend and touch back down on the Martian surface.

Several hours after the first flight has occurred, Perseverance will downlink Ingenuity’s first set of engineering data and, possibly, images and video from the rover’s Navigation Cameras and Mastcam-Z. From the data downlinked that first evening after the flight, the Mars Helicopter team expect to be able to determine if their first attempt to fly at Mars was a success.

“Ingenuity is an experimental engineering flight test – we want to see if we can fly at Mars,” said MiMi Aung, project manager for Ingenuity Mars Helicopter at JPL. “There are no science instruments onboard and no goals to obtain scientific information. We are confident that all the engineering data we want to obtain both on the surface of Mars and aloft can be done within this 30-sol window,” Aung added.

On the following sol, all the remaining engineering data collected during the flight, as well as some low-resolution black-and-white imagery from the helicopter’s own Navigation Camera, could be downlinked to JPL.

The third sol of this phase, the two images taken by the helicopter’s high-resolution color camera should arrive. The Ingenuity Mars Helicopter team will use all information available to determine when and how to move forward with their next test.

“Mars is hard,” said Aung. “Our plan is to work whatever the Red Planet throws at us the very same way we handled every challenge we’ve faced over the past six years – together, with tenacity and a lot of hard work, and a little Ingenuity.”

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The latest: vaccines to be made available at Alaska airports

Associated Press

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Alaska airports

JUNEAU, Alaska — Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy says COVID-19 vaccines would be made available at key airports in the state starting June 1.

He made the announcement Friday, as he unveiled plans aimed at bolstering Alaska’s pandemic-battered tourist industry.

Dunleavy, a Republican, outlined plans for a national marketing campaign aimed at luring tourists and said the vaccine offering is “probably another good reason to come to the state of Alaska in the summer.”

Dunleavy and other state leaders have been pushing to allow large cruise ships to return to Alaska after COVID-19 restrictions kept them away last year.

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2.7 million products on display at China’s digital Canton Trade Fair

Inside Telecom Staff

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Digital Canton Trade Fair

The China Import and Export Fair (Canton Fair) opened its 129th session on Wednesday, and what is its third digital exhibition. 260 thousand exhibitors present a record-breaking 2.7 million products across 16 categories, 82 thousand of which will be new products.

Exhibitors will showcase their products through cutting-edge digital presentations such as pictures, videos, 3D and livestreams, including 2,600 virtual reality showrooms and 137 online new product launches.

Xu Bing, spokesperson of the Canton Fair, noted that the 129th Canton Fair, built on the previous two digital sessions successfully held in 2020, has further optimized its digital platform to facilitate accessible and convenient business communication between suppliers and buyers.

“The Canton Fair has been promoting trade exchanges and stabilizing the global industrial supply chain over the years, and we hope the 129th session can contribute to China’s new development pattern where domestic and foreign markets can boost each other,” Xu said.

Canton, now known as Guangzhou, is the capital and most populous city in the province of Guangdong, which popularly called “the factory of the world.”

Located on the Pearl River about 120 km north-northwest of Hong Kong, Canton (Guangzhou) has a trade history of over 2,200 years and was historically the major trading terminus for the ancient, globalized Silk Road which traveled from China to the Mediterranean and southern Europe.

The metropolis continues in the modern era as a major port and transportation hub and is one of China’s three largest cities. 

This year’s Canton Fair brings functional improvements to enable efficient business matching, including leveraging resources in livestreams, allowing easy access to the Help Center, offering an upgraded Exhibitor Centre management tool, and providing an intelligent customer service system with multiple language support.

Aiming to provide buyers with an optimal experience throughout the grand online international trade event, the Fair is also embracing an inclusive participation with targeted market segment incentives and activities.

Focusing on China’s global “Belt and Road Initiative” and Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) countries, the Canton Fair has been working closely with international business associations.

Forty-four exhibition virtual events hosted in 32 countries with topics covering promotion, matchmaking, and cooperation agreement signing, along with over 300 trainings for overseas buyers, email direct marketing and global partnership programs, will help global buyers understand their targeted industries and the product categories of interest which are showcased at the Canton Fair.

To allow buyers to do barrier-free business across borders, the Canton Fair is introducing a wide range of supporting services, such as professional settlements, financing to insurance, logistic support for transportation, inspection to quality certification, as well as online customs support and policy interpretation.

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Google Earth adds time lapse video to depict climate change

Associated Press

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Google Earth adds time lapse video to depict climate change

The Google Earth app is adding a new video feature that draws upon nearly four decades of satellite imagery to vividly illustrate how climate change has affected glaciers, beaches, forests and other places around the world.

The tool unveiled Thursday is rolling out in what is being billed as the biggest update to Google Earth in five years. Google says it undertook the complex project in partnership with several government agencies, including NASA in the U.S. and its European counterpart, in hopes that it will help a mass audience grasp the sometimes abstract concept of climate change in more tangible terms through its free Earth app.

Cornell University climate scientist Natalie Mahowald believes that mission may be accomplished.

“This is amazing,” she told The Associated Press after watching a preview of the new feature. “Trying to get people to understand the scope of the climate change and the land use problem is so difficult because of the long time and spatial scales. I would not be surprised if this one bit of software changes many people’s minds about the scale of the impact of humans on the environment.”

This isn’t the first time time-lapse satellite imagery has been used to demonstrate show how parts of the world are changing before our eyes due to a changing climate. Most scientists agree that climate change is being driven by pollution primarily produced by humans.

But earlier images have mostly focused on melting glaciers and haven’t been widely available on an already popular app like Google Earth, which can be downloaded on most of the more than 3 billion smartphones now in use around the world

Google is promising that people will be able to see a time lapse presentation of just about anywhere they want to search. The feature also includes a storytelling mode highlighting 800 different places on the planet in both 2D and 3D formats. Those videos also will be available on Google’s YouTube video site, a service more widely used than the Earth app.

The feature was created from 24 million satellite images taken every year from 1984 to 2020 and provided by NASA, the U.S. Geological Survey and the European Union, according to Google. The time lapse technology was created with the help of Carnegie Mellon University.

Google plans to update the time lapse imagery at least once a year.


SAN RAMON, Calif. (AP) — By MICHAEL LIEDTKE AP Technology Writer

AP Science Writer Seth Borenstein contributed to this story from Washington.

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