NASA experts discussed a new era in space exploration on Monday after the success of spaceflight by the Ingenuity Mars helicopter, which could prepare flights for other worlds.
In a live discussion aired on YouTube by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Southern California, ingenuity pilot Johnny Lam said the helicopter could enter areas that other space robots or devices could not.
“I think with the success of the ingenuity, we actually unlocked the aerial dimension of the study,” he said. “We can reach some hard-to-reach areas, we can provide images, intelligence … the best way to go.”
NASA MARS “CRIMINAL”
“Ultimately, all of these things can help explore man on Mars or other planets,” he added.
The space agency designed its fourth flight of ingenuity to Mars last week. The four-pound spacecraft flew 436 feet south to collect aerial images of a possible new landing area.
The next flight will be a one-way trip to a new landing site. Eventually, the helicopter will try to fly with Rover for storage to test how it works as a scout.
“The mission will provide inspiration,” said Nishant Mehta, deputy head of NASA’s Dragonfly mobility system in Maryland. “They will seek future ideas for planetary exploration and will certainly expand our borders even further.”
Dragonfly is NASA’s mission to deliver a rotorcraft to Titan, Saturn’s moon, in search of signs of life. Its launch is planned for 2027. The machine is equipped with cameras.
Navigation cameras will collect one image per second, which is not “very common,” Mehta said.
“We will spend a lot of time optimizing the data we want to collect, working with scientists to find out what’s most interesting,” he said.
Ingenuity has two cameras, but no video capability, Lam said.
The biggest challenge for ingenuity is taking off and landing, he added. To get out of the ground, a large amount of traction is applied to reach ingenuity to the desired height. To land, the helicopter descends at 1 meter per second, he said.
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Nishant said one of the biggest challenges for the Dragonfly mission would be Titan’s surface temperature, which could drop to minus 300 degrees, he said.
“Designing a lander that can survive at these temperatures and operate at these temperatures is a challenge,” he said.
Julia Musto of Fox News contributed to this report.