Bad weather to limit Ingenuity flights

The season of dust storms and the approach of the Martian winter will limit the capabilities of the Ingenuity drone to perform flights for the next few months. This was stated by one of the project participants.

Ingenuity Martian helicopter. Source: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Ingenuity’s last flight to date took place on April 29. In its course, the drone overcame a distance of 152 meters. Already on May 3, NASA lost contact with the device. A few days later, the contact was established. It turned out that Ingenuity switched to economy mode due to lack of energy

Ingenuity gets its energy from solar panels. Recently, their production has decreased significantly. This is due to the beginning of the dust storm season on Mars. Because of it, the Chinese National Space Administration recently decided to put the Zhurong rover into sleep mode until December. 

Another reason for the lack of energy is the approach of winter. Because of this, daytime and nighttime temperatures in the region where Ingenuity is located have significantly decreased. The drone has to spend more and more energy on heating its systems. Engineers have taken a number of measures to reduce its consumption — but nevertheless, it is not enough for Ingenuity to continue flying.

So far, NASA engineers cannot predict how long Ingenuity will not be able to fly — it depends on changes in weather conditions on Mars. But the mission management hopes that the drone will be able to withstand these “dark times” and return to flying in a few months. 

Recall that NASA recently published a spectacular video of Ingenuity’s record-breaking flight, during which it flew over 700 meters.

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