This time, NASA’s Mars robotic helicopter Ingenuity didn’t come again.
That was meant.
On Friday, Ingenuity, which final month grew to become the primary machine to fly like an airplane or a helicopter on one other world, took off for the fifth time. It made a profitable one-way journey to one other flat patch of Mars greater than the size of a soccer subject away. The spot the place it landed will function its base of operations for the subsequent month no less than, starting a brand new part of the mission the place it’s going to function a scout for its bigger robotic companion, the Perseverance rover.
According to what NASA stated earlier than the flight, Ingenuity retraced the course of its earlier flight, heading south for 423 ft at an altitude of 16 ft. But as a substitute of turning round, it stopped and climbed increased, to 33 ft, to take some photos of the realm. It then set down, 110 seconds after it had taken off.
As with the earlier 4 flights, Ingenuity flew autonomously, with no assist or communication from folks on Earth, executing a flight plan that had been despatched hours earlier. Engineers had to wait greater than three hours after Ingenuity had already landed earlier than information of the success — relayed from Ingenuity to Perseverance to an orbiter passing overhead after which to Earth — arrived.
Ingenuity, 1.6 ft tall and weighing 4 kilos, is an $85 million add-on mission to the $2.7 billion Perseverance mission, which is looking for indicators of previous life on Mars. The helicopter traveled to Mars tucked below the stomach of the rover, which landed on Mars in February.
In NASA’s authentic plans, after the helicopter was dropped onto the bottom in early April, the Ingenuity group had a month and up to 5 flights to show that managed, powered flying was doable on Mars, the place the ambiance on the floor is simply 1 % as dense as Earth’s. Ingenuity was to have been left behind, and Perseverance would have headed off to conduct its scientific explorations.
But the mission’s managers at NASA modified their minds.
Ingenuity flew nearly flawlessly. The first flight was a brief up-and-down. Subsequent flights ventured farther afield, assembly all the authentic objectives.
In a blog post, Joshua Ravich, Ingenuity’s mechanical engineering lead, stated the ability system, the warmers, the navigation system and the rotors have been all working effectively. “Our helicopter is even more robust than we had hoped,” he wrote.
That opened the door to utilizing Ingenuity not solely as a proof of the essential know-how but additionally to present aerial reconnaissance of the encircling panorama for the Perseverance scientists, who’ve determined that they need the rover to discover the neighboring areas for a number of months.
The fourth flight scouted a brand new location for the helicopter to land. “The digital elevation maps put together by the Ingenuity team gave us confidence that our new airfield is flat as a pancake — a good thing when you have to land on it,” Mr. Ravich stated.
During the fourth flight, Perseverance, parked greater than 250 ft from the helicopter, efficiently recorded the sound of Ingenuity’s rotors slicing via the Martian air.
“We have been lucky to register the helicopter at such a distance,” David Mimoun, the science lead for the microphone, stated in a NASA information launch. “This recording will be a gold mine for our understanding of the Martian atmosphere.”
After the transfer of Ingenuity to its new base, the main target of the Perseverance group now shifts to its scientific research, which have been largely on maintain in the course of the take a look at flights.
Ingenuity is predicted to make simply to make one or two extra flights this month, taking off when there may be time amid Perseverance’s different actions.
But if that every one goes effectively, Ingenuity may proceed tagging together with Perseverance throughout the Martian panorama.