This time, NASA’s Mars robotic helicopter Ingenuity didn’t come again.
That was supposed.
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 a different flat patch of Mars greater than the size of a soccer area away. The spot the place it landed will function its base of operations for the subsequent month a minimum of, starting a brand new part of the mission the place it would function a scout for its bigger robotic companion, the Perseverance rover.
Ingenuity retraced the course of its earlier flight, heading south for 423 toes at an altitude of 16 toes. However as an alternative of turning round, it stopped and climbed greater, to 33 toes, to take some footage of the world. It then set down, 108 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 needed 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 toes tall and weighing 4 kilos, is an $85 million add-on mission to the $2.7 billion Perseverance mission, which is trying to find indicators of previous life on Mars. The helicopter traveled to Mars tucked beneath 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 workforce had a month and as much as 5 flights to reveal 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.
However the mission’s managers at NASA modified their minds.
Ingenuity flew virtually flawlessly. The primary flight was a brief up-and-down. Subsequent flights ventured farther afield, assembly the entire authentic targets.
In a weblog submit, Joshua Ravich, Ingenuity’s mechanical engineering lead, stated the facility system, the warmers, the navigation system and the rotors had been all working properly. “Our helicopter is much more strong 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 offer aerial reconnaissance of the encompassing 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 collectively by the Ingenuity workforce gave us confidence that our new airfield is flat as a pancake — a superb factor when you need to land on it,” Mr. Ravich stated.
Throughout the fourth flight, Perseverance, parked greater than 250 toes from the helicopter, efficiently recorded the sound of Ingenuity’s rotors slicing by way of the Martian air.
“Now we have been fortunate to register the helicopter at such a distance,” David Mimoun, the science lead for the microphone, stated in a NASA information launch. “This recording can be a gold mine for our understanding of the Martian ambiance.”
After the transfer of Ingenuity to its new base, the main target of the Perseverance workforce now shifts to its scientific research, which have been largely on maintain in the course of the take a look at flights.
“The plan ahead is to fly Ingenuity in a way that doesn’t cut back the tempo of Perseverance science operations,” stated Bob Balaram, the chief engineer of the helicopter, in a NASA launch after the flight.
Ingenuity is predicted to make simply to make one or two extra flights this month, taking off when there’s time amid Perseverance’s different actions.
But when that each one goes properly, Ingenuity may proceed tagging together with Perseverance throughout the Martian panorama.