THIS WEEK @NASA: Making a Splash with Orion, Preparing for First Flight on Mars

By  //  March 27, 2021

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ABOVE VIDEO: Preparing for first flight on Mars, making a splash with Orion, and the space station’s next crew prepares for launch … a few of the stories to tell you about – This Week at NASA!

Ingenuity Mars Helicopter Preparing for First Flight

Our Ingenuity Mars Helicopter was the focus of a March 23 briefing at our Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. The Ingenuity team is targeting no earlier than April 8 for this technology demonstration to make the first attempt at powered, controlled flight of an aircraft on another planet.

“We use drones and helicopters here on Earth for all sorts of things that they’re more suitable for than land-based vehicles, right? So you can imagine being able to have that same capability on Mars, flying around on Mars. And that could be for reconnaissance purposes, taking pictures to scout out areas, potential science targets for future rovers, or even future astronauts.”—Håvard Grip, Ingenuity chief pilot

Once deployed from the Perseverance rover, Ingenuity will have 30 Martian days – equal to about one month here on Earth – to conduct its test flight campaign.

Water Tests Begin with Orion Test Article

Engineers at our Langley Research Center are using a test version of our Orion spacecraft for water impact testing. During the tests the crew module is dropped into a large pool of water to learn more about what the spacecraft and astronauts inside might experience while landing in the Pacific Ocean after missions to the Moon. Data from the drop tests will be used for final computer modeling for loads and structures prior to Artemis II, our first Artemis mission to the Moon with astronauts.

Next Station Crew Conducts Prelaunch Activities

The International Space Station’s next crew, including our Mark Vande Hei completed prelaunch qualification exams and participated in various other activities in and around Moscow, Russia. Vande Hei, and Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov, of the Russian Space Agency, Roscosmos will complete their preflight training at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, ahead of their targeted April 9 launch to the space station.

X-59 Quiet SuperSonic Aircraft Coming Together

The Lockheed Martin team building our X-59 Quiet SuperSonic Technology aircraft, recently merged its empennage to the wing. The empennage is the section that supports the experimental plane’s engine and tail. NASA is targeting 2022 for the first demonstrations of the X-59’s ability to create a soft thump during supersonic flight, instead of the typically loud sonic boom. NASA has contracted California company, Crystal Instruments, to deliver a state-of-the-art ground recording system capable of capturing the acoustic data needed before test flights over communities around the U.S. can begin. Those flights could start as early as 2024.

Landsat Satellite Data Warns of Harmful Algal Blooms

Data from the NASA and U.S. Geological Survey’s Landsat 8, and other satellites, are helping scientists identify algal blooms in lakes or rivers. These naturally occurring blooms can make these bodies of water harmful for recreational use. The Landsat 8 data is used to create a product that can help local water or recreation managers identify areas where a potential problem exists. According to a 2020 study published in the journal GeoHealth, Landsat-based detection of a 2017 bloom in Lake Utah helped save an estimated $370,000 in healthcare and related costs for that area.

That’s what’s up this week @NASA

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