After an impressive 2021 during which it surpassed all expectations, NASA’s Ingenuity Mars helicopter is about to embark on its first flight of the brand new 12 months.
On January 7 or quickly after, Ingenuity will hearth up its rotors as soon as once more and fly from its present location within the South Séítah basin towards the Jezero river delta on what will likely be its nineteenth flight to this point.
Imagery captured by the helicopter alongside the way in which will assist mission planners to plan a route for the Perseverance rover, which is heading to the delta as a part of its seek for proof of historic life on the crimson planet.
Ingenuity will fly 207 toes (63 meters) over the martian floor at an altitude of 33 toes (10 meters) and a pace of about 2.2 mph (1 meter per second). The journey is prone to final round 100 seconds. Shortly earlier than touching down, the helicopter will carry out a 180-degree flip to flip its high-resolution Return-To-Earth (RTE) digicam to a forward-facing orientation for future flights towards the river delta.
“Whereas quick, the flight has a difficult begin as a consequence of featureless sandy terrain that the helicopter at the moment sits on,” mentioned Martin Cacan, Ingenuity pilot at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), which is overseeing the mission. “Initially chosen for the shortage of rocks to land safely, the realm is definitely so devoid of rock that warnings had been reported through the Flight 18 touchdown as a consequence of inadequate options to trace within the imaginative and prescient navigation. Because of this, fault safety parameters will likely be up to date to mitigate the danger of a untimely touchdown mid-ascent.”
Ingenuity made historical past in April final 12 months when it grew to become the primary plane to realize powered, managed flight on one other planet, proving itself in a position to deal with the planet’s skinny ambiance and chilly situations. The 4-pound, 19-inch-high helicopter has since been buzzing throughout the martian floor frequently, permitting NASA engineers to be taught as a lot as attainable about its efficiency and design forward of creating a extra superior plane for future planetary missions.
Ingenuity reached a outstanding milestone in December when its complete time flight time on Mars hit half-hour, with the helicopter now having flown properly over 2 miles (3,218 meters) at heights of as much as 40 toes (12 meters) and as quick as 10 mph (5 meters per second).
“Few thought we might make it to flight one, fewer nonetheless to 5. And nobody thought we might make it this far,” Ingenuity group lead Teddy Tzanetos of JPL mentioned lately.
He added that alongside the way in which, Ingenuity has managed to deal with differing atmospheric situations brought on by seasonal differences whereas working out of 9 distinctive martian airfields.
The plane has additionally managed to beat a number of points that, had they been extra critical, might have grounded the helicopter for good.
Making it to 2022 is a giant achievement and the group will now be trying to push Ingenuity to even better limits within the coming months whereas on the similar time helping Perseverance by checking the protection of proposed routes from the air.