NASA Martian helicopter Ingenuity will continue to fly for another 30 days (at least), with an extended mission that will test the helicopter’s ability to be a “reconnaissance”, the agency announced today (April 30).
The ingenuity was originally planned to work for 30 days on Mars, conducting a mission demonstrating technology designed to test whether a controlled propulsion flight is possible on Mars or not. However, with the success of the first three flights, NASA decided to extend the helicopter’s mission by an additional 30 soles and move it to the “operation demonstration phase”, which will test additional capabilities of the vessel. (An evil or Mars day is about 40 minutes longer than Earth̵
“After evaluating scientific strategies for perseverance, there is room to expand the demonstration of ingenuity in a new phase,” said Lori Glaze, director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division at NASA headquarters, during a news conference today, citing Persistence of the rover, which landed with ingenuity last February and supports the helicopter’s flight program.
Video: See the view of Mars from the fourth flight of the Ingenuity helicopter
“To bring ingenuity now into a new operational demonstration phase, our team was extremely happy and proud,” said MiMi Aung, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) manager, at the same conference. “It’s as if ingenuity is moving from the test demonstration phase to the now new demonstration phase, where we can show how a rotorcraft can be used.”
Aung spoke as her team waited for a message of ingenuity about their fourth flight to Mars earlier today. This flight was successful, and ingenuity the fastest and farthest ever.
On April 19,, Ingenuity took its first flight, rising to the surface of the Red Planet, hovering and landing safely back. This historic event was followed by three additional fields – including one just this morning – which went smoothly, demonstrating 4-lb. (1.8 kilograms) capabilities of the vessel, which are impressive given the thin atmosphere of Mars.
So far, however, flights have required perseverance to stay close. The rover captures images of flights and serves as a communication link between ingenuity and mission control. Therefore, the mission of ingenuity was set to stop after 30 days and up to five flights, so that Perseverance could move on to its own scientific mission.
But while NASA officials had this conservative initial plan to ensure that ingenuity would not interfere with the Permanence’s work, the helicopter has so far met expectations that it believes it can continue to work with ingenuity and not interfere with Persistence, which include signs of ancient life on Mars and collecting samples for future returns to Earth.
Perseverance will be beyond ingenuity during the new phase of the flight, but the team believes the couple will still be able to communicate effectively. In addition, Perseverance will not take the time to document the flights that the Invention performs during its extended mission.
“What we’re not going to do anymore, which has taken a huge amount of time, is to depict helicopter flights. This is what has taken away our ability to continue the scientific mission in one way or another,” said Jennifer Trosper, Deputy Sustainability Project Manager. at JPL, told Space.com during the press conference.
Ingenuity made its fourth flight this morning, after a one-day delay caused by a glitch that occurred earlier. The fifth flight is likely to take place in about a week, Aung said.
Flights four and five serve to support the transition of ingenuity in its extended mission phase, she added. And the fifth jump will be a one-way trip to a brand new flight zone
“We’re going to get further away from the helicopter; in fact, the helicopter is moving away from us to go somewhere else,” Trosper said.
The resourcefulness is likely to fly to the new site once or twice in May, Trosper said, as the mission team continues to explore exploration opportunities and images of the helicopter.
As this expected schedule shows, the rhythm of Ingenuity’s flight will slow slightly during the extended mission, moving from one flight every few days to one every two to three weeks, Trosper said.
And this 30 salt target is not a difficult time for an extended mission.
“We’ll see how it goes,” Glaze said. “We will look at the performance, we will see the kind of data products we can get back, and we will see how the two flight systems work together, with Persistence taking the lead and being very focused on this science. “
And, she added, “after this period of 30 soles, we will assess where we are … we will check the health of the helicopter, see how it is useful for the Permanence or whether it has an impact on the ability of the Permanence to perform its main scientific tasks. And we will appreciate the whole picture and see where we are at that time. So there is potential to go beyond that; we will have to evaluate it in 30 days. “
But the summer days of ingenuity will definitely end by the end of August.
“This moment will allow the crew to complete its planned scientific activities and prepare for a solar connection – the period in mid-October, when Mars and Earth are on opposite sides of the sun, blocking communications.” NASA officials wrote in a statement today.
Email Chelsea God at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @chelsea_gohd. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.