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The ingenious helicopter experiment on Mars is about to become more interesting

Ingenuity in the air (right) during his fourth flight on April 30, 2021<div class="e3lan e3lan-in-post1"><script async src="//pagead2.googlesyndication.com/pagead/js/adsbygoogle.js"></script>
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Ingenuity in the air (right) during his fourth flight on April 30, 2021.
Image: NASA / JPL-Caltech / ASU / MSSS

It is not wrong to want ingenuity to collapse. A crash of a helicopter on Mars in a dramatic crash would mean that the NASA team has brought the spacecraft to its limit – that there is finally a ceiling on the achievements of the astonishingly successful helicopter. So far, Ingenuity has completed four of its five planned test flights to Mars and now has a new mission for the month ahead.

Accepting a successful fifth flight, Ingenuity will begin a perhaps more experimental phase of aerial reconnaissance and other functions, exploring how future rotorcraft may otherwise fulfill human goals on Mars. The new set of challenges means that the nature of the mission of ingenuity has evolved from a simple demonstration that flight is possible on Mars.

“We judge how we’re doing,” said MiMi Aung, Ingenuity’s project manager, about Ingenuity’s life expectancy at NASA. press conference held last week. “The ingenuity was created and tested in 30 days of work. We are expecting some kind of final life, so it will really be a race between how long these parts will surprise us in survival and, also, when we do these operational scenarios, we will definitely push the boundaries of ingenuity. “

The first flight of ingenuity, on April 19, 2021.
Image: NASA / JPL-Caltech / ASU / MSSS

The extra month of experimentation is good news for the helicopter crew, which had a 30-day window to complete the initial five flights. It looks like these flights will be completed with days off, and as the Perseverance rover team is ahead of schedule in system checks, the helicopter team has been given a little extra time to play. Update the status of the presentation of ingenuity in the air, published late last week, the helicopter’s chief pilot, Howard Grip, revealed that the vessel had passed its initial test to fly to Mars with, of course, flying colors.

According to NASA release, the types of tasks that ingenuity can take on next month are much more ambitious. As perseverance sets out its main mission –reconnaissance of signs of fossil life in a dried-up river delta– The helicopter can accompany it, noticing interesting places from above or looking at possible routes for the rover. It can also capture stereo images to help you create elevation maps of the area. The helicopter could be about two-thirds of a mile from Permanence and still communicate with it, according to Aung.

Obviously, it would be great if ingenuity continues to be confused, against all predictions of its survival. But at the same time, she has already taken us with her achievements. All the data we receive in the future is a pretty big bonus.

“There are a lot of ideas about how this could end and what the last flight might be,” said Jennifer Trosper, deputy project manager on the rover’s team, during a press conference last week. “As we review it, our goal is to evaluate each month and see how it’s going, and then determine what the next steps are.”

So no, the NASA team doesn’t want to kill the helicopter. But the time for short, conservative flights is over and we are excited to see what comes next.

More ▼: See footage of the remarkable rise and successful landing of ingenuity

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