The Red Planet rotorcraft will shift the focus from proving that flight is possible Mars to demonstrate flight operations that future aircraft could use.
NASAThe Ingenuity Mars helicopter has a new mission. After proving that a controlled flight to the Red Planet is possible, the ingenuity experiment will soon begin a new phase of demonstration of operations, exploring how air reconnaissance and other functions could be useful for future exploration of Mars and other worlds.
This new phase will begin after the helicopter completes its next two flights. The decision to add a demonstration of operations is a result of the fact that the rover Perseverance has been ahead of schedule with a thorough inspection of all vehicle systems since its landing on February 18, and its scientific team has selected the nearby section of the crater bed for its first detailed studies. With Mars’s energy, telecommunications and flight navigation systems operating beyond expectations, it has become possible to allow the helicopter to continue exploring its capabilities with a demonstration of operations without significantly affecting route planning.
“The demonstration of Ingenuity technology has been a resounding success,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. “As the ingenuity remains in excellent health, we plan to use it to take advantage of future aerial platforms, while prioritizing and moving forward with the near scientific goals of the Perseverance rover team.”
The demonstration of operations will begin in about two weeks with the sixth flight of the helicopter. Until then, the ingenuity will be in a transitional phase, which includes its fourth and fifth raids in the purple sky of Mars. Flight Four will send the rotorcraft about 436 feet (133 meters) south to collect aerial images of a potential new landing area before returning to the field at Wright Brothers Field, the name of the Martian airport where the first flight took place. of Ingenuity. This 873-foot (266-meter) turning effort will exceed the range, speed and duration achieved in the third flight. Ingenuity is scheduled to perform a fourth flight on Friday, taking off at 10:46 a.m. EDT (7:46 a.m. PDT, 12:30 p.m. Local Time on Mars) and the first data will be returned at 1:39 p.m. EDT (10:39 a.m. PDT). The fifth flight will send ingenuity on a one-way mission, landing at the new site. If ingenuity remains strong after these flights, the next phase can begin.
Change of course
The transition of ingenuity from conducting a technological demonstration to a demonstration of operations brings with it a new envelope of flight. Along with these one-way flights, there will be more precise maneuvering, greater use of its aerial surveillance capabilities and greater risk in general.
The change also means that ingenuity will require less support from the Perseverance rover team, which is looking forward to targets to sample rocks and sludge in search of ancient microscopic life. On April 26, the 66th salt of the mission, or Martian Day, Persistence drove 10 feet (33 feet) to identify targets.
“With the short drive, we’ve already started moving south to a place that the scientific team says is worthy of investigation and our first sampling,” said Ken Farley, a scientist on the Perseverance rover project from Caltech in Pasadena, California. “We will spend the next few hundred solos performing our first scientific campaign, looking for interesting rock outcrops along this 2-kilometer (1.24 mile) section from the bottom of the crater, before possibly heading north and then west to the fossil Jezero Crater River.
With short drives expected for consistency in the near future, ingenuity can perform flights that land near the rover’s current location or its next expected parking space. The helicopter can use these capabilities to perform aerial observations of the rover’s scientific targets, potential rover routes, and inaccessible functions, while capturing stereo images for digital altitude maps. The lessons learned from these efforts will provide significant benefits for future planning missions. These reconnaissance flights are a bonus, not a requirement for Persistence to fulfill its scientific mission.
The flight cadence during the demonstration phase of ingenuity will be delayed from once every few days to about once every two or three weeks, and raids will be scheduled to avoid interfering with Perseverance’s scientific operations. The team will evaluate the flight operations after 30 solos and will complete the flight operations no later than the end of August. This moment will allow the crew to complete their planned scientific activities and prepare for the solar connection – the period in mid-October, when Mars and Earth are on opposite sides of the Sun, blocking communications.
“We appreciated the support provided by the Perseverance rover team during our technology demonstration phase,” said MiMi Aung, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory Project Manager (JPL) in Southern California. “Now we have a chance to pay for it in advance, demonstrating for future robotic missions and even crew missions the benefits of having a partner nearby who can provide a different perspective – one from heaven. We will take this opportunity and run with it – and fly with it. “