NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter has a new job. Ingenuity will embark on a new operations demonstration phase after two more flights, exploring how aerial scouting and other functions will benefit future exploration of Mars and other worlds.
The Perseverance rover is ahead of schedule with a thorough checkout of all vehicle systems since its Feb 18 landing. Its science team chose a nearby patch of crater bed for its first detailed explorations and the helicopter will now continue exploring its capabilities with an operations demonstration, without significantly impacting rover scheduling.
Until the demo, Ingenuity will be in a transitional phase that includes its fourth and fifth forays. Flight four will send the rotorcraft about 436 feet south to collect aerial imagery of a potential new landing zone before landing at Wright Brothers Field, the name for the Martian airfield on which Ingenuity’s first flight took place. This 873-foot roundtrip effort would surpass the range, speed, and duration marks achieved on the third flight. The fifth flight will send Ingenuity on a one-way mission, landing at the new site.
Ingenuity’s transition from conducting a technology demonstration to an operations demonstration brings with it a new flight envelope including more precision maneuvering, greater use of its aerial-observation capabilities, and more risk overall. Ingenuity in this phase will require less support from the Perseverance rover team.
With short drives expected for Perseverance in the near term, Ingenuity may execute flights that land near the rover’s current location or its next anticipated parking spot. The helicopter can use these opportunities to perform aerial observations of rover science targets, potential rover routes, and inaccessible features while also capturing stereo images for digital elevation maps.
The Ingenuity Mars Helicopter was built by the JPL, which also manages this technology demonstration project for NASA Headquarters. It is supported by NASA’s Science, Aeronautics, and Space Technology mission directorates. NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley and NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, provided significant flight performance analysis and technical assistance during Ingenuity’s development. AeroVironment Inc., Qualcomm, and SolAero also provided design assistance and major vehicle components. Lockheed Space in designed and manufactured the Mars Helicopter Delivery System.
For more information about Ingenuity check out the NASA website.
Original Source: PR Newswire