The Ingenuity helicopter proved it might fly on Mars. Now it has loftier objectives. Having handed all its authentic engineering assessments, the tiny spacecraft will now start a brand new job, supporting the Perseverance rover in its science mission.
“It’s like Ingenuity is graduating,” stated Ingenuity challenge supervisor MiMi Aung of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., in a information briefing on April 30.
The helicopter arrived at Mars with two important objectives: display that flight was doable on the Crimson Planet and present that it might return essential flight information to Earth. These have been each achieved in Ingenuity’s first flight on April 19 after which surpassed because the helicopter flew farther, larger and quicker on April 22 and April 25 (SN: 4/19/21).
The unique plan was for Ingenuity to take as much as six flights whole, then floor itself without end as Perseverance drove away to do science. That was partly as a result of the Perseverance crew anticipated to drive removed from the rover’s touchdown website in quest of rocks that may protect indicators of previous Martian life (SN: 2/22/21).
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“We thought we’d be doing an intensive drive marketing campaign during which the helicopter wouldn’t be capable to sustain,” stated Perseverance challenge scientist Ken Farley of Caltech within the briefing. “However based mostly on the rocks we’ve seen within the space, we actually want to spend a substantial period of time the place we’re.”
Ingenuity has additionally been performing surprisingly effectively, Aung stated. The rover and the helicopter may be capable to talk from greater than a kilometer aside, giving them each extra flexibility.
Ingenuity took its fourth flight on April 30 to scout for a brand new launch pad. The fifth flight, to be scheduled after the crew has examined the info, shall be a one-way journey to that new residence.
After that, Ingenuity will swap into assist mode. Up till now, the Perseverance crew has generously supported the helicopter, Aung stated. “The rover is main going ahead,” she stated.
The helicopter can have future flights in assist mode. The crew says Ingenuity will scout potential scientific observations and rover routes from the sky, make 3-D digital elevation maps and try locations a rover can’t go. “The teachings realized from that train will profit future missions with aerial platforms tremendously,” Aung stated.
The crew isn’t positive how the helicopter’s mission will finish. Ingenuity was designed to final simply 30 Martian days. The brand new assist part will lengthen its mission by one other 30 days, until one thing goes unsuitable earlier than then. “We don’t know what number of freeze and thaw cycles it could actually undergo earlier than one thing breaks,” stated Ingenuity chief engineer Bob Balaram.