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Mars Helicopter Ingenuity Prepares for Fastest Flight Yet

NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover acquired this picture utilizing its Left Mastcam-Z Camera. Mastcam-Z is a pair of cameras positioned excessive on the rover’s mast. This picture was acquired on Jun. 15, 2021 (Sol 114). NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU

The plucky little Mars helicopter Ingenuity has been flying sooner and additional over the Martian floor in its successive flights; most lately traveling 160 meters on its eighth flight. But now the helicopter workforce has one thing much more difficult deliberate, because the helicopter prepares to enterprise out far-off from its rover companion.

Ingenuity is getting ready for flight 9, scheduled for tomorrow, Sunday July 4, which can contain leaving the rover to journey throughout difficult terrain at a excessive pace. The rover is at present at a location known as “Séítah,” which has rippling sand formations which might make it tough to drive over. So the helicopter will try to go up and over this impediment, snapping images of the terrain because it goes.

Part of the long-term plan for aerial vehicles on Mars is to have them discover areas which might be tough or unimaginable to achieve by rover, and to have them transfer rapidly over massive areas to scout out the area. This would enable rovers to move to essentially the most scientifically attention-grabbing areas that are simply accessible from the bottom, whereas aerial autos can discover the extra distant or tough areas.

That’s why Ingenuity is on the point of fly sooner and farther than ever earlier than, with the intention to skip over the Séítah sand formation by flying 625 meters (2,051 toes ) at 5 meters (16 toes) per second, with a complete flight time of 167 seconds. This can be a very tough flight for the helicopter, as a result of means its autonomous navigation works. It makes use of its digicam to take high-resolution pictures of the bottom under, then makes use of these pictures to regulate its actions to remain within the air. But due to the uneven floor it will likely be flying over, it’s potential that the navigation system might have issues studying the bottom stage.

This makes the deliberate flight a dangerous one, however Ingenuity’s chief pilot, Håvard Grip, and chief engineer, Bob Balaram, write that they suppose the helicopter is up for the problem: “Why are we prepared to take that threat? First, we consider Ingenuity is prepared for the problem, based mostly on the resilience and robustness demonstrated in our flights to this point. Second, this high-risk, high-reward try suits completely throughout the targets of our present operational demonstration section.

“A successful flight would be a powerful demonstration of the capability that an aerial vehicle (and only an aerial vehicle) can bring to bear in the context of Mars exploration — traveling quickly across otherwise untraversable terrain while scouting for interesting science targets.”

We’ll preserve you up to date on how the helicopter fares on its most difficult flight but.

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