Ingenuity, NASA’s vanguard Mars helicopter exceeded expectations so much that the agency gave it a second mission. Proving that powerful and controlled flight is possible on the Red Planet, Ingenuity current mission is to scout in front of the Perseverance rover. Perseverance is looking for signs of past microbial life on the Red Planet.
Ingenuity flew over the surface of the Red Planet for the first time earlier this month. He then completed two more flights, each more ambitious than the previous one. However, the Mars helicopter did not make its fourth flight. NASA’s plan was to fly the helicopter five times and then abandon it. But now NASA has changed its mind. The agency tasked Ingenuity with the task of exploration and mapping, observing the interesting features of Mars from the air, and exploring rugged terrain inaccessible to travelers. The discoveries that ınggenuity will make can be useful for manned missions.
Mars helicopter will explore new lands
Ken Farley, who worked on the Perseverance program, made a new statement. Farley said the new mission is extremely important for future missions that could combine a navigator with a reconnaissance helicopter. Clarifying the new mission, NASA scientists stated that the Perseverance rover will not watch the helicopter’s additional flights. But the traveler will be near the helicopter in search of signs of ancient microbial life on his mission. The NASA team plans to create a 3D map of the nearby terrain with photos taken by the helicopter on new flights. They also aim to choose a new landing point for Ingenuity. Scientists also stated that they want to record Ingenuity in-flight voice.
The fifth flight of the helicopter will take place in a week. Thus, Ingenuity is expected to descend to its new position. The vehicle will make at least two more flights in May from its new location. For now, NASA is extending Ingenuity mission by only 30 Mars days. However, if the helicopter survives and does not interfere with Perseverance’s science study, it may fly longer.
The limits of Ingenuity will be pushed
“When we do these operational scenarios, we will naturally push the limits of Ingenuity,” said Ingenuity project manager MiMi Aung. said. Aung added that the helicopter is more likely to land badly, as it will be flying over previously unexamined terrain. Chief engineer Bob Balaram said cold Martian nights, when temperatures dropped to -90 degrees Celsius, were a limiting factor. Ingenuity continues to heat with solar energy. However, it was designed to last only one month.
Both Ingenuity and Perseverance rover are at Jezero Crater, which is about 49 kilometers in diameter. Researchers think the crater was a lake about 3.5 billion years ago. So scientists say the lake may have once housed microbial life. So Perseverance is about to search for fossils of alien microbes in sediments dragged to the bottom of the lake.