NASA Mars helicopter ingenuity will continue to fly for another 30 days (at least) as part of an expanded mission that will test the helicopter’s ability to be a “reconnaissance”, the agency announced today (April 30).
Ingenuity was originally planned to operate for 30 days on Mars, conducting a technology demonstration mission designed to test the feasibility of controlled flight on Mars. However, after the success of the first three flights, NASA decided to extend the flight of the helicopter by another 30 ev and move it into the “demonstration of operations” phase, which will test the additional capabilities of the device. (One sol, or Martian day, is about 40 minutes longer than an Earth day.)
“Once the scientific strategies for persistence have been evaluated, there is an opportunity to expand the show of ingenuity to a new stage,” said Laurie Glaze, director of NASA’s planetary science division at NASA headquarters, during today’s press conference, referring to Persistence all-terrain vehicle, which landed with Ingenuity in February this year and supports the helicopter flight program.
Video: Get a view of Mars from the fourth Ingenuity helicopter flight.
“For Ingenuity to enter a new phase of operational demonstrations, our team was extremely happy and proud,” said MiMi Aung, Ingenuity Project Manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) at the same conference. “It looks like Ingenuity is moving from a test demonstration phase to a new demonstration phase where we can show how the rotorcraft can be used.”
Aung spoke as her team awaited a message from Ingenuity about her fourth mission to Mars, which happened today. This flight was successful, the fastest and longest of all that Ingenuity had.
April 19, Ingenuity made its first flight, rose above the surface of the Red Planet, hovered and landed safely back down. This historic event was followed by three additional flights – including this morning – everything went smoothly, showing £ 4. (1.8 kg) the spacecraft’s capabilities are impressive given the thin atmosphere of Mars.
Until now, however, flying has required resilience to stay close. The rover took pictures of flights and served as a link between Ingenuity and the mission control center. As such, the Ingenuity mission had to end after 30 days and up to five flights so that Perseverance could move on to its own science mission.
But while NASA representatives had this conservative, original plan to ensure that ingenuity does not infringe on the work of Perseverance, the helicopter goes so far as to exceed expectations that they think they can continue operations with ingenuity and not get in the way. Perseverance goals that include hunting. for signs of ancient Martian life and collecting samples for future return to Earth.
Perseverance will be further from ingenuity in the new phase of the flight, but the team believes the couple will still be able to communicate effectively. Plus, Perseverance will not waste time documenting Ingenuity’s flights during its extended mission.
“What we’re not going to do anymore, and it took a huge amount of time, is to film helicopter flights. This is what made it impossible for us to continue the scientific mission in one way or another, ”Jennifer Trosper, Deputy Project Manager of the Perseverance Mars rover at JPL told Space.com during a press conference.
Ingenuity made its fourth flight this morning after a one-day delay caused by an earlier error. The fifth flight is likely to take place in about a week, Aung said.
She added that the fourth and fifth flights are helping bring Ingenuity into the extended mission phase. And the fifth jump will be a one-way trip to a completely new flight zone.
“We’re going to get away from the helicopter; in fact, the helicopter moves further away from us to move to another location, ”said Trosper.
Ingenuity is likely to fly to the new location once or twice during May, as the mission team continues to explore the helicopter’s reconnaissance and survey capabilities, Trosper said.
As this expected graph shows, Ingenuity’s flight frequency will slow slightly during the extended mission, from one flight every few days to one flight every two to three weeks, Trosper said.
And that 30 salt goal is not a hard deadline for an extended mission.
“We’re going to see how things go,” Glaze said on the topic. “We’re going to watch performance, we’re going to see what kind of data products we can get back, and see how the two flight systems work with each other, with Perseverance taking the lead and very focused on that science. … “
And, she added, “after this 30 minute period, we will assess where we are … we will check the condition of the helicopter, we will see how useful it is for Perseverance, or if there are any implications for Perseverance’s ability to perform its core scientific work. And we will assess the whole picture and see where we are at the moment. So there is potential to go beyond that; we will need to evaluate it in 30 days. “
But the flying days of ingenuity will definitely end by the end of August.
“This time will allow the rover team to complete the planned scientific activities and prepare for the conjunction of the Sun – the period of mid-October, when Mars and Earth are on opposite sides of the Sun, blocking communication.” NASA representatives wrote a statement today…
Email Chelsea Gohd at cgohd@ or follow her on Twitter @chelsea_gohd. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.