Ingenuity to Continue Exploring Mars After 5th Flight–10 Things You Need to Know

NASA has decided to extend the operation of its Mars helicopter, Ingenuity, until the end of August 2021. It is expected that the helicopter will be engaged in photographic reconnaissance of the area and will help the rover in laying a route of movement and choosing interesting objects for detailed study.

The Ingenuity mission went down in history when it made the first flight on another planet. The helicopter took off in the extremely thin Martian atmosphere and hovered at an altitude of 2 meters for about 40 seconds before landing. It flew further during the second and third flights, rising to a height of 5 meters and passing more than 50 meters in both directions, before returning to the launch site.

The drone was supposed to make its fourth flight on April 29, but due to the triggering of the watchdog timer, it was postponed to April 30. With this now complete, NASA revealed the great news that the Ingenuity mission will be extended.

10 things you need to know about Ingenuity’s fourth flight and extended mission

1. On April 30, the Ingenuity helicopter successfully made its fourth flight. This time, the drone rose to a height of 5 meters, then went 133 meters south and came back – a total of 266 meters. The flight lasted 117 seconds.

2. Besides the apparent longer flight, Ingenuity was tasked to take at least 60 black and white images and 5 color images.

3 Meanwhile, the US space agency announced that the 30-day operational period of the main mission is over. With four successful demonstration takeoffs, the mission can be considered completely successful!

4. It is expected that thanks to the Mars helicopter, engineers will be able to understand the peculiarities of piloting such devices in the atmospheres of bodies of the solar system, as well as the possibilities of their application in the field of photographic reconnaissance of the area.

Photo of Ingenuity taken by the rover during the fourth flight. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech
Photo of Ingenuity taken by the rover during the fourth flight. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech

5. Initially, the drone team talked about only five experimental flights of the device. Now, after analyzing the data obtained during the flights, they decided not to curtail the work program after the fifth flight. Ingenuity’s mission has now been extended until the end of August.

6. Thus, if the fifth flight of the drone succeeds, then a transition will take place from the phase of demonstrating the possibility of flight to the phase of demonstrating the possibility of long-term photographic reconnaissance of the terrain.

7. The drone receives power from a solar panel and is capable of lifting into the air using a pair of coaxial propellers, each being 1.2 meters in diameter. It is equipped with black and white cameras for navigation, color cameras, batteries, and an antenna. Apparently, all its equipment is working perfectly after four flights.

8. It is expected that the flights will operate once every two to three weeks and should not greatly distract the rover from carrying out its scientific program.

9. The tasks of Ingenuity’s extended mission will include flying from one parking lot of the rover to another, taking pictures of interesting targets for the rover, laying out possible routes for its movement, as well as compiling stereo images of the surrounding area.

10. According to NASA, engineers could send Ingenuity up to a kilometer ahead of the rover, exploring geological features and areas inaccessible to Perseverance.

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Gohd, C. (2021, April 30). NASA extends Mars helicopter Ingenuity’s HIGH-FLYING mission on red planet.
NASA. (2021, April 30). NASA’s ingenuity helicopter to begin New demonstration Phase – NASA’s Mars exploration program.
NASA. (n.d.). Ingenuity completes its fourth flight.

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Source: Curiosmos

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