NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter Enters New Phase of Flight

Ingenuity on Sol 48, as imaged by Perseverance’s left Mastcam-Z digital camera.
NASA / JPL-Caltech / ASU

On April 19, 2021, the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter made historical past, with the first powered flight on one other planet. Since then, the helicopter has flown farther, increased, and sooner on successive flights. Now, NASA announced on Friday that it’s going to finish the one-month demonstration section for the intrepid helicopter, and lengthen its operational capabilities for at the very least one other month.

“The Ingenuity technology demonstration has been a resounding success,” says affiliate administrator Thomas Zurbuchen (NASA Science Mission Directorate) in a current press release. “Since Ingenuity remains in excellent health, we plan to use it to benefit future aerial platforms while prioritizing and moving forward with the Perseverance rover team’s near-term science goals.”

Ingenuity was set to finish its fourth flight final Thursday, April twenty ninth, earlier than a software program glitch precipitated the helicopter to fail to transition into flight mode. Mars is presently about 17 light-minutes distant, that means the helicopter is by itself to hold out flights. NASA engineers mounted the glitch and re-uploaded the pre-flight program to the helicopter through the worldwide Deep Space Network. The flight was profitable the very subsequent day, on April thirtieth.

The helicopter flew for 117 seconds, reached an altitude of 4.9 meters (16 ft), and ranged out over a round-trip of 266 meters to the south, snapping pictures alongside the way, earlier than it returned to the Wright Brothers Field touchdown website. Ingenuity broke its personal flight speed file on this flight, transferring at a most of 3.5 meters per second (7.8 mph).

The rover is on the transfer once more as nicely. On Sol 66 (April 26th), Perseverance drove 10 meters south of the Jakob van Zyl overlook, resuming its seek for new science targets.

Ingenuity's shadow on Mars
Ingenuity sees its shadow throughout flight three.
NASA / JPL-Caltech

“We have appreciated the support provided by the Perseverance rover team during our technology and demonstration phase,” says MiMi Aung (NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory) in a current press release. “Now we have a chance to pay it forward, demonstrating for future robotic and even crewed missions the benefits of having a partner nearby that can provide a different perspective.”

The half-meter-high helicopter is gentle, at 4 kilos (1.8 kilograms), and solar powered. Two pairs of counter-rotating blades spin at 2,500 rpm to create elevate towards the tenuous Martian environment, which has just one% the density of Earth’s air at sea stage. Ingenuity doesn’t carry any science payloads, but it surely does have a laser altimeter, a 13-megapixel colour digital camera, and a 0.5-megapixel black-and-white digital camera onboard. Ingenuity depends on Perseverance to speak with Earth however can vary as much as a few kilometer from the rover.

Ingenuity images Perseverance
Perseverance (higher left) as imaged from Ingenuity in flight.
NASA / JPL / Caltech

The one-month extension transitions Ingenuity from a know-how demonstration, merely exhibiting that flight is feasible on Mars, to an operations mission that demonstrates strategies and strategies for future aerial missions.

Watch for flight 5 — the ultimate deliberate checkout flight — to happen someday this week, no sooner than May seventh. In one other first, Ingenuity will depart the Wright Brothers Field website for good, flying downrange to a brand new touchdown website. This is riskier than earlier flights, because the helicopter should land on the new website by itself. Along the way, the helicopter will snap pictures from its aerial perspective of the brand new terrain forward of Perseverance rover, one other plus for the mission.

Landing site, as imaged by Ingenuity
Perseverance vs. the Octavia E. Butler touchdown website, as seen from Ingenuity.
NASA / JPL-Caltech

Expect to see the flight cadence to decelerate throughout this new operational section, from a flight each 2 to three days, to 1 each 2 to three weeks. In June, NASA will assess Ingenuity’s efficiency. However, August’s solar conjunction, when the Sun comes between Earth and Mars and disrupts radio communication, will most likely spell the top for Ingenuity.

Perseverance has already been an incredible mission since its sky hook landing in Jezero Crater on the Octavia E. Butler touchdown website on February 18, 2021. It will likely be thrilling to see Ingenuity fly on in coming weeks as a robotic scout for the Perseverance rover.


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