(CNN) — After 4 profitable flights on Mars, the Ingenuity helicopter is graduating to a brand new part of its mission and can fly for no less than one other month on the crimson planet.
The little 4-pound chopper has achieved all of its targets — and now it’s going to 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 goes to transition from a know-how demonstration, the place we show the technical capabilities of the helicopter, to an operations demonstration the place we’re going to collect info on the operational assist functionality of the helicopter whereas 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 check out capabilities. It will enable Ingenuity to display flight operations that would profit the longer term exploration of Mars.
“Our workforce has been extraordinarily pleased and happy with the Ingenuity flights thus far, and now it’s like Ingenuity is graduating from the tech demo part to the brand new ops demo part the place we will present how a rotorcraft can be utilized and guarantee merchandise that solely an aerial platform from an aerial dimension can provide,” mentioned MiMi Aung, Ingenuity mission supervisor at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, through the press convention.
Fourth flight findings
Ingenuity was supposed to lift 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 features a watchdog timer that expires and prevents flight if it senses any hindrances. Nonetheless, there’s a identified problem relating to a 15% probability that this timer may expire every time the helicopter makes an attempt a flight. The time-out doesn’t forestall future flights, nevertheless 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 need to play this cube sport each time we attempt to fly,” mentioned Bob Balaram, Ingenuity chief engineer at JPL.
Another attempt of the fourth flight occurred Friday at 10:49 a.m. ET, or 12:33 p.m. native Mars time.
The primary flight knowledge got here in to the JPL management room at 1:39 p.m. ET.
Ingenuity ascended to its typical altitude of 16 toes (5 meters) after which flew south for 436 toes (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 toes (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 “one other set of data for the helicopter, even in comparison with the spectacular third flight,” Aung wrote in an update.
The Perseverance rover additionally captured photographs and video of Ingenuity’s flight — together with sound for the primary time.
In the course of the flight, the helicopter’s cameras captured views that present “an aerial perspective of Mars that humanity has by no means seen earlier than,” Aung wrote.
The photographs taken by the chopper and the rover will likely be shared because the workforce has an opportunity to course of them within the coming days.
A brand new part of exploration
The brand 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 remains to be able to flight past these 60 sols, the part could also be prolonged, in response to the helicopter workforce.
Throughout the brand new part, Ingenuity will give attention to aerial statement of particular scientific targets utilizing its cameras, taking a look at options not accessible by rovers like Perseverance, in addition to scouting for probably intriguing scientific websites. The helicopter additionally will search out a brand new airfield to journey to and conduct extra check 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 situated. These maps may gain advantage 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 throughout the brand new operations part. The operations part will start in about two weeks.
Information from the fourth flight will inform plans for Ingenuity’s future aerial adventures. For the fifth flight, Ingenuity will depart Wright Brothers Discipline, the house of its first 4 experimental flights, and make a one-way flight switch to a brand new airfield. This flight is anticipated to happen in a few week.
Thus far, the helicopter has remained wholesome, with solely a software program glitch suspending a few its flights. The one concern transferring ahead that would affect Ingenuity’s longevity is its sturdiness because it experiences continuous cycles of freezing and thawing, Balaram mentioned.
“It wasn’t actually designed for a protracted mission,” Balaram mentioned. “The expectation is that in some unspecified time in the future, one thing will snap.”
Throughout future flights, Ingenuity will soar over beforehand unsurveyed terrain, which implies “there’s a excessive likelihood of a foul touchdown,” Aung mentioned.
She mentioned that every picture and video has introduced her and the workforce a lot pleasure that they “nearly really feel the liberty that Ingenuity feels” because it flies.
“We will likely be celebrating every day that Ingenuity survives and operates past the unique window,” Aung mentioned.
The rover and the helicopter
The continuation of Ingenuity’s mission will proceed so long as it stays on a “to not intervene” foundation with the science mission of the Perseverance rover.
Whereas 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’s time to organize Perseverance to research intriguing rocks and pattern them in order that future missions can return them to Earth within the seek for proof of historic microbial life past our planet.
“The problem that we foresaw initially with the helicopter, and the science mission, is that we thought we might be doing an intensive drive marketing campaign through which the helicopter wouldn’t have the ability to sustain,” mentioned Ken Farley, Perseverance mission scientist on the California Institute of Expertise.
However 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 unique airfield.
Perseverance will spend the subsequent couple hundred sols exploring a 1.24-mile (2-kilometer) patch of Jezero Crater’s flooring. Members of the science workforce consider 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 more likely to be mudstones, as soon as mud on the backside of the lake, and these are essential for our investigation as a result of that is the type of surroundings that we count on to be most liveable by organisms that may have existed on Mars billions of years in the past, in addition to having the aptitude to protect bio signatures over the billions of years since,” Farley mentioned.
The rover will acquire three or 4 samples of the world earlier than heading northwest towards the traditional, dry river delta.
Earlier than this assortment can start, Perseverance must undergo some extra checkouts to organize its sampling system and driving capabilities. The workforce estimates Perseverance will acquire its first pattern in July, mentioned Jennifer Trosper, Perseverance rover deputy mission supervisor at JPL.
Ingenuity would be the one leaving Perseverance seeking new airfields.
The 2 robots generally is a kilometer or extra aside, or over half a mile, and nonetheless have the ability to talk with one another. Ingenuity received’t require as a lot assist from the rover through the operations part, liberating up the rover to embark on its important quest.
“I believe Perseverance has loved having somewhat buddy there on the floor,” 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 transferring into this extra demonstration part, we actually do need to see whether or not it’s potential to hold out the science mission, and assist the helicopter concurrently,” Farley mentioned.
Ingenuity will wrap up flight operations no later than the tip 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 now have so appreciated the assist offered by the Perseverance rover workforce throughout our know-how demonstration part,” Aung mentioned. “Now we now have an opportunity to pay it ahead, demonstrating for future robotic and even crewed missions the advantages of getting a accomplice close by that may present a special perspective — one from the sky.”
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