NASA prolongs Ingenuity Mission

NASA decided to prolong the Ingenuity drone-helicopter mission till September. It will be used to accompany the Perseverance Mars rover vehicle on its journey aimed at searching for traces of ancient Martian life.

Image of the Séítah Martian region taken by the Ingenuity drone-helicopter. Source: NASA/JPL

The prolongation of the mission was announced shortly after the completion of 21 Ingenuity flights. During this flight, the rotor-wing device flew over the northwestern part of the Séítah region. It is expected that Ingenuity will need to make at least two more flights before it can reach its new operating area.

Ingenuity’s New Goal

The goal of Ingenuity is the region of the ancient river delta. An area several kilometers wide is filled with jagged rocks, rock fragments, boulders and sand deposits. On the one hand, they pose a significant threat to both Ingenuity and Perseverance. On the other hand, in these rich geological deposits may be hidden the long-awaited evidence, which can prove that some kind of life existed on Mars in the past.

After Ingenuity reaches the delta, it should conduct aerial reconnaissance of two dried-up river channels. After that, the experts will choose which of them will be investigated by Perseverance. Hereafter, the drone will continue to accompany the rover. Its photos will be used to plan the route of the Mars rover vehicle. Perhaps Ingenuity will also be involved in shooting objects located outside the rover’s range.

Remember that Ingenuity first flew in April 2021. The initial mission program was designed for five flights over 30 days. But as a result, Ingenuity significantly exceeded all expectations. According to mission specialists, despite the fact that the drone spent almost a year on Mars, all its main components are still working as new.

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