Jun, 2021 - By WMR
For the first time without the careful eye of chief rover, Ingenuity will be left to its own devices.
Ingenuity, NASA’s tiny Mars helicopter, has so far exceeded expectations, navigating the Red Planet’s harsh circumstances with apparent ease after five test flights in less than a month. The crew at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), which is in charge of the current Mars mission, is getting ready to launch Ingenuity on its sixth trip since its historic first hover on April 19, 2021. After completing the technology demonstration phase, which demonstrated Ingenuity’s capacity to fly in Mars’s extremely thin atmosphere – staying aloft for nearly two minutes while flying 266 meters on one mission – the team is now moving on to the operations demonstration phase, which will strive to learn more about how such flights can aid future exploration of Mars and other planets.
The 4-pound, 19-inch-tall helicopter will climb to a height of 10 meters (33 feet) before flying southwest for about 150 meters on the sixth flight (492 feet). While continuing to fly south for about 20 meters, the machine will use an onboard camera to acquire color imagery of an area of interest to researchers (66 feet). The helicopter will fly northeast for 50 meters (164 feet) to a new landing location after completing its image collection. Ingenuity, which flies autonomously after receiving orders from the crew, will be pushed to a record groundspeed of 9 mph (4 meter per second) during its sixth flight, staying aloft for 140 seconds, a time greater than any of its prior flights, states JPL.
“ It will also be the first time the helicopter will land at an airport that it did not examine from the air during a previous mission”, JPL stated, adding that this time the crew is relaying on imagery collected by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter’s HiRISE (High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment) camera. JPL is scheduled to reveal more details regarding the flight schedule any day now.