The prospects for space exploration of Mars are bright.
NASA’s Mars helicopter Ingenuity landed in Jezero crater on Mars with the agency’s Perseverance rover in February.
has already completed 8 Red Planet flights. This is three times the maximum target value of 4 pounds. (1.8 kg) The original helicopter-Ingenuity technology demonstration mission has not yet been completed. The current activity of the extended mission of the small
helicopter is primarily to demonstrate the potential of the Martian helicopter as a scout scout. It will continue “at least for a few more months, at a rate of several flights per month,” said the Perseverance Project scientist. Pasadena Ken Farley, a geochemist at the California Institute of Technology, said at a live web conference from NASA’s Mars Exploration Program Analysis Group (MEPAG) last Monday (June 21).
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The need to balance helicopter and rover missions at the same time requires a “dance “Complex and the upcoming Ingenuity Flying Farley said this will provide valuable practice for members of the two teams. (Ingenuity and perseverance are different tasks, but the helicopter relies on the rover – it is only digging for its job of searching for life and collecting samples – as a communication relay.)
“In the process, we hope to get what we find. The image of the place can’t go,” Farley said. “And we are also using helicopters to develop terrain grids, which in the future will allow rovers to cross landscapes that they cannot actually see with their mast-mounted cameras.”
To date, Ingenuity’s only hit has reached a distance of 873 feet (266 meters); Carried out on the fourth flight on April 30), the longest stay in the air is 140 seconds (the sixth flight, May 22). If possible, the Ingenuity team hopes to break these two signs in the coming months.
“We have walked 266 meters; we want to extend it to one kilometer [0.6 miles],” said Teddy Tzanetos, director of ingenuity operations at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Southern California, during the conference. MEPAG on June 21.
“This means a total flight time of three minutes,” said Tzanetos. “As far as the aircraft is concerned, this will really push the limits of the technology demonstrator’s capabilities.” The
helicopter team will also prioritize reconnaissance of Perseverance’s areas of interest, such as the geological unit called Séítah on Jezero land, and excavating the large amount generated by Ingenuity Scientific and engineering data, added Tzanetos.
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Data mining can inform the design of Ingenuity’s successors, which are already beginning to take shape, at least as a concept. For example, Tzanetos said in a MEPAG speech that engineers have begun developing plans for a larger and more powerful helicopter called the Mars Scientific Helicopter. The
Mars Scientific Helicopter is a joint project involving the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, NASA’s Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, and defense contractor AeroVironment. The planned aircraft will be equipped with six rotors and will weigh about 66 pounds. (30 kg) and can carry scientific payloads weighing up to 11 pounds. (5 kg) more or less, said Tzanetos. (These are the weights on Earth-the hexacopter will be lighter on Mars, and the gravity of Mars is only 38% stronger than our planet.) Tzanetos said that the
Mars scientific helicopter has a single takeoff distance of about 6.2 miles (10 km). He said that such a plane can explore “places that roamers cannot access, such as cliff faces or difficult terrain, and even caves.”
Similarly, the Mars Scientific Helicopter is now just a concept, not a complete mission. But due to the ongoing work of Ingenuity, the hexacopter may find its way to the red planet sometime in the far future.
Mike Wall is the author of “Out There” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; Karl Tate illustration), a book on the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.

 

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