The ‘Wright’ material on Mars: Flyer material to fly again on Ingenuity helicopter

March 29, 2021

– A small version of a ready-to-fly outfit on the first aircraft of its kind over a century, and a world away, from which it first made history.

The strip of muslin, once part of a shield on the Wright brothers’ 1903 Flyer – the first successful aircraft with heavier power than air – is now on Mars, connected to Ingenuity, the first aircraft to fly attempted power flights on another planet. .

“This outfit is from Kitty Hawk’s original flying plane,” said Bob Balaram, chief engineer for NASA’s Ingenuity Mars helicopter. “With all of our high-tech materials and carbon fiber and exotic metals skin, we are extremely proud to honor that long-established experimental aircraft by carrying a small piece of [its] clothes. “

Flyer clothing is wrapped around a cable located under the helicopter’s solar panel, held in place by waterproof tape.

Innovation, which landed on Mars with the Perseverance rover, is expected as a technology demonstrator. If successful, the helicopter could lead to future flights supporting robotic and human missions on the Red Planet.

“It was in the long tradition of experimental aircraft that we started all the way from the Wright brothers, who were able to introduce air movement as a measure for us to be able to travel here on Earth. In the same way, We hope that innovation also allows us to expand and open air movement on Mars, “Balaram said at a news conference held March 23 at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California.

First flights

The Wright Flyer advanced in the air age on Earth with a 12-second flight on December 17, 1903. With Orville Wright as pilot and Wilbur Wright running alongside, the Flyer traveled 120 feet (36 meters) over the sand-covered exterior. North Carolina Banks.

The Flyer made three more flights that day before being damaged outside repairs. It was later restored and is on display with the Smithsonian National Aeronautics and Space Museum in Washington, DC.

The Ingenuity Mars helicopter is slated to attempt its first flight on or around April 8, after being grounded by Perseverance within a flat area of ​​a Jezero crack that will be the his airfield. Like the Flyer, the first flight of the Ingenuity with rotor power will be short. If everything goes according to plan, the helicopter will go up to 10 feet (3 meters) high and take up to 30 seconds before turning and sitting down.

Achieving controlled flight on Mars is difficult. The planet’s gravity is about one-third of Earth’s environment, but the feel is just one percent as dense at the surface.

“The first flight is special. This is the most important flight we plan to take,” said Håvard Grip, chief pilot of Ingenuity at JPL. “We will name the complete success of a mission if we make this first flight that we are going to try.”

Ingenuity’s aboard avionics replaces Orville Wright as a pilot, but like Wilbur, Perseverance looks from the side. The rover will receive data and possibly film the helicopter flight from “Van Zyl Overlook,” an area named for Jakob van Zyl, director of solar system research at JPL, who died suddenly about a month after Perseverance and Ingenuity launched to Mars.

Stuth Flyer far-flung

It was Orville Wright who removed the Flyer outfit that is now on board Ingenuity. He was preparing the aircraft for his first public exhibition when it was replaced by the unique muslin “Pride of the West” in 1916. He and his brother later found another use for the material.

“The Wright brothers were selling pieces of it to raise money for their future endeavors,” Balaram said.

NASA worked with Carillon History Park, home of the Wright Brothers National Museum, to find the costume.

“Our mission includes ‘inspiring the world.’ We hope this partnership with NASA helps to do just that – inspire our world to reach further afield, “said Brady Kress, president of Park Carillon’s history, in a narrative.

This isn’t the first time a dress from Wrights ’1903 Flyer has left the Earth. In 1969, the Wright family donated pieces of muslin to the Apollo 11 astronaut and a wooden splinter from the plane’s left-wing controller to fly on the first lunar landing mission.

Excerpts from the moon-moved Flyer articles are now on display at museums across the U.S. and in private collections, the latter having been auctioned for up to $ 275,000.

A different piece of Flyer 1903 clothing boarded the Discovery shuttle, joining former Mercury astronaut John Glenn on his return to orbit in 1998.

The same orbiter, Discovery, launched another fragment of the first aircraft two years later on behalf of North Carolina’s first Centennial Commission. The muslin, delivered to the International Space Station, was launched to mark the 100th anniversary of Flyer and STS-92, the 100th space shuttle mission.

Now, Flyer clothing has not just reached Mars, but it is ready for a flight … again.

“Wilbur and Orville Wright would be delighted to discover that a small piece of their 1903 Wright Flyer I, the device that launched the Space Age by flying nearly a quarter of a mile, is heading towards history again on Mars! ”Amanda Wright Lane and Stephen Wright, Wilbur and Orville’s great-grandmother and nephew, said in a statement. “NASA’s Mars sustainability team has found a way to defraud another 330 million miles [530 million km] out of the original Pride of the West costume which Wilbur and Orville thought had given way to its Flyer broken wings on December 17, 1903. “