NASA to test the limit of Ingenuity’s capabilities on Mars

The brave NASA Ingenuity helicopter is about to make its 49th flight on Mars. A small unmanned aerial vehicle arrived on the Red Planet together with the Perseverance rover in February 2021.

The NASA Ingenuity helicopter. Photo: NASA

The main goal of the rover is to search for evidence of ancient life on a distant planet. Ingenuity helps with this by using its onboard camera to scout out the best routes for Perseverance across the rocky surface. At the beginning of their mission, the team from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) was simply interested in whether the helicopter could rise to a low altitude in the thin atmosphere of Mars. 

Having made its first flight in April 2021 to become the first aircraft to take off and fly horizontally in the atmosphere of another planet, the team sent Ingenuity on more complex and long journeys, culminating in flights for navigation assistance to the rover. Despite the impressive achievements, the team behind Ingenuity strives to bring the helicopter to the limit of its capabilities. This week, the helicopter can rise to a record height.

Animation of a NASA Ingenuity helicopter flight on Mars

Currently, Ingenuity has made the highest ascent to a height of 16 meters. Therefore, in the next flight, the helicopter will rise to a much higher altitude. It is expected that in the 49th flight, the helicopter will stay in the air for about 135 seconds and cover a distance of 272.5 meters, moving at a speed of about 16 km/h. 

NASA was so impressed by the helicopter’s ability to operate for so long, as well as overcoming a number of technical problems, that it plans to build a more advanced version of the aircraft for future missions to Mars and possibly to other planets. NASA will use the spacecraft to collect visual data from the air to map and assist the rovers on the surface. It can be used to transport rock and soil samples to a spacecraft that is waiting to bring them home for more detailed analysis by scientists as part of the Mars Sample Return project.

Earlier we reported on how Ingenuity broke the speed and distance records of the flight.

According to Digital Trends

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