After fourth successful flight, Mars helicopter gets a new mission

(NCS) — After 4 successful flights on Mars, the Ingenuity helicopter is graduating to a new part of its mission and can fly for no less than one other month on the purple planet.

The little 4-pound chopper has achieved all of its goals — and now it would chase after new ones. This additionally means the Perseverance rover and its aerial sidekick get to spend extra time collectively engaged on a joint mission.

“Ingenuity is going to transition from a technology demonstration, where we prove the technical capabilities of the helicopter, to an operations demonstration where we’re going to gather information on the operational support capability of the helicopter while Perseverance focuses on its science mission,” mentioned Lori Glaze, director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington, throughout a press convention Friday.

The helicopter has exceeded expectations, which drove the choice to additional its mission and take a look at out capabilities. This will enable Ingenuity to show flight operations that might profit the long run exploration of Mars.

“Our team has been extremely happy and proud of the Ingenuity flights to date, and now it’s like Ingenuity is graduating from the tech demo phase to the new ops demo phase where we can show how a rotorcraft can be used and ensure products that only an aerial platform from an aerial dimension can give,” mentioned MiMi Aung, Ingenuity mission supervisor at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, through the press convention.

Fourth flight findings

Ingenuity was presupposed to elevate off Thursday, however knowledge confirmed that the helicopter didn’t transition to flight mode, so the fourth flight was rescheduled for Friday.

The helicopter’s pc consists of a watchdog timer that expires and prevents flight if it senses any hindrances. However, there’s a recognized problem relating to a 15% likelihood that this timer might expire every time the helicopter makes an attempt a flight. The time-out doesn’t forestall future flights, however it did result in a postponement of Ingenuity’s preliminary flight and the fourth flight, the workforce mentioned.

As members of the helicopter workforce goal extra flights, they could deploy a repair to the software program “so we don’t have to play this dice game every time we try to fly,” mentioned Bob Balaram, Ingenuity chief engineer at JPL.

Another try of the fourth flight occurred Friday at 10:49 a.m. ET, or 12:33 p.m. native Mars time.

The first flight knowledge got here in to the JPL management room at 1:39 p.m. ET.

Ingenuity ascended to its ordinary altitude of 16 ft (5 meters) after which flew south for 436 ft (133 meters). It handed over rocks, small affect craters and sand ripples and used its black-and-white navigation digicam to seize photographs of this intriguing panorama each 4 ft (1.2 meters).

The helicopter elevated its max airspeed to eight miles per hour (3.6 meters per second).

Ingenuity traveled for an 872-foot (266-meter) spherical journey and remained within the air for 117 seconds, which was “another set of records for the helicopter, even compared to the spectacular third flight,” Aung wrote in an replace.

The Perseverance rover additionally captured photographs and video of Ingenuity’s flight — together with sound for the primary time.

During the flight, the helicopter’s cameras captured views that present “an aerial perspective of Mars that humanity has never seen before,” Aung wrote.

The photographs taken by the chopper and the rover will likely be shared because the workforce has a likelihood to course of them within the coming days.

A new part of exploration

The new operations part will final for 30 Martian sols, or 31 Earth days, along with the preliminary 30 sols that Ingenuity was designed for as a know-how demonstration. If Ingenuity continues to be able to flight past these 60 sols, the part could also be prolonged, in accordance with the helicopter workforce.

During the new part, Ingenuity will give attention to aerial statement of particular scientific targets utilizing its cameras, options not accessible by rovers like Perseverance, in addition to scouting for doubtlessly intriguing scientific websites. The helicopter additionally will search out a new airfield to journey to and conduct extra take a look at flights.

Ingenuity can also conduct imaging that may assist enhance digital elevation maps of the Jezero Crater website, the place each Perseverance and the helicopter are positioned. These maps may benefit future aerial missions.

The fourth and fifth flights are nonetheless thought of to be a part of the tech demo part. Ingenuity will conduct its sixth and seventh flights through the new operations part. The operations part will start in about two weeks.

Data from the fourth flight will inform plans for Ingenuity’s future aerial adventures. For the fifth flight, Ingenuity will depart Wright Brothers Field, the house of its first 4 experimental flights, and make a one-way flight switch to a new airfield. This flight is predicted to happen in about a week.

So far, the helicopter has remained wholesome, with solely a software program glitch suspending a couple of its flights. The solely concern shifting ahead that might affect Ingenuity’s longevity is its sturdiness because it experiences continuous cycles of freezing and thawing, Balaram mentioned.

“It wasn’t really designed for a long mission,” Balaram mentioned. “The expectation is that at some point, something will snap.”

During future flights, Ingenuity will soar over beforehand unsurveyed terrain, which implies “there’s a high probability of a bad landing,” Aung mentioned.

She mentioned that every picture and video has introduced her and the workforce a lot pleasure that they “almost feel the freedom that Ingenuity feels” because it flies.

“We will be celebrating each day that Ingenuity survives and operates beyond the original window,” Aung mentioned.

The rover and the helicopter

The continuation of Ingenuity’s mission will proceed so long as it stays on a “not to interfere” foundation with the science mission of the Perseverance rover.

While Ingenuity performed its preliminary flights, the rover remained perched at an overlook to take video and pictures, stopping it from doing a lot else.

Now, it is time to put together Perseverance to analyze intriguing rocks and pattern them in order that future missions can return them to Earth within the seek for proof of historical microbial life past our planet.

“The challenge that we foresaw originally with the helicopter, and the science mission, is that we thought we would be doing an intensive drive campaign in which the helicopter would not be able to keep up,” mentioned Ken Farley, Perseverance mission scientist on the California Institute of Technology.

But in a fortuitous twist, the rover has found a wealth of rocks that the science workforce desires to check intimately not removed from Ingenuity’s authentic airfield.

Perseverance will spend the following couple hundred sols exploring a 1.24-mile (2-kilometer) patch of Jezero Crater’s flooring. Members of the science workforce imagine they are going to discover a number of the oldest materials within the crater, the positioning of a 3.9-billion-year-old lake mattress.

“These rocks are likely to be mudstones, once mud at the bottom of the lake, and these are very important for our investigation because this is the kind of environment that we expect to be most habitable by organisms that might have existed on Mars billions of years ago, as well as having the capability to preserve bio signatures over the billions of years since,” Farley mentioned.

The rover will gather three or 4 samples of the world earlier than heading northwest towards the traditional, dry river delta.

Before this assortment can start, Perseverance must undergo some extra checkouts to organize its sampling system and driving capabilities. The workforce estimates Perseverance will gather its first pattern in July, mentioned Jennifer Trosper, Perseverance rover deputy mission supervisor at JPL.

Ingenuity would be the one leaving Perseverance in the hunt for new airfields.

The two robots might be a kilometer or extra aside, or over half a mile, and nonetheless have the ability to talk with one another. Ingenuity will not require as a lot help from the rover through the operations part, releasing up the rover to embark on its major quest.

“I think Perseverance has enjoyed having a little buddy there on the surface,” Trosper mentioned.

The rover and helicopter groups will use the 30 sols of the operations part to check out how the 2 missions can work in sync.

“Now that we’re moving into this additional demonstration phase, we really do have to see whether it is possible to carry out the science mission, and support the helicopter simultaneously,” Farley mentioned.

Ingenuity will wrap up flight operations no later than the top of August, which can enable the rover workforce to conclude their science actions and put together for a communications blackout between Mars and Earth in mid-October when the 2 planets are on reverse sides of the solar.

“We have so appreciated the support provided by the Perseverance rover team during our technology demonstration phase,” Aung mentioned. “Now we have a chance to pay it forward, demonstrating for future robotic and even crewed missions the benefits of having a partner nearby that can provide a different perspective — one from the sky.”

This story was first revealed on “After fourth successful flight, Mars helicopter gets a new mission
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