NASA’s Perseverance rover is all set to deploy a mini-helicopter Ingenuity on Mars. The drone-like four-blade helicopter will take its first flight on the red planet and in the process, give us all the glimpse of how people sitting on Earth can remotely explore other planets.
Away goes the debris shield, and here’s our first look at the helicopter. It’s stowed sideways, folded up and locked in place, so there’s some reverse origami to do before I can set it down. First though, I’ll be off to the designated “helipad,” a couple days’ drive from here. pic.twitter.com/E9zZGQk5jQ
— NASA's Perseverance Mars Rover (@NASAPersevere) March 21, 2021
The development comes straight from NASA when the space exploration agency announced that Perseverance’s Ingenuity has cleared all the system checks and is ready to take the first flight on Mars. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory team’s Farah Alibay and Timothy Canham announced that the final reviews of all the system checks have been carried out successfully. Currently, the helicopter is attached to the belly of the rover which was in the news recently.
Meanwhile Perseverance has been roving around Mars’s Jezero Crater and getting itself familiar on Mars and its surface since February. The rover will now add a new feather to its cap by deploying a teeny-tiny helicopter called Ingenuity on Tuesday.
NASA in its statement said how both the Perseverance and Ingenuity team have agreed to “have chosen the flight zone where the helicopter will attempt the first powered, controlled flights on another planet.”
How the Ingenuity helicopter will be released?
The Ingenuity helicopter will hitch a ride on Perseverance. The helicopter was covered by a protective shield which safeguarded the helicopter during the descent and landing of the Perseverance rover. Once the rover finds an appropriate spot on the Red Planet, the shield that covers the helicopter will drop. Then the NASA team will release the Ingenuity.
Lots of activity next week as I get ready to drop off the helicopter for its test flights. It’s tucked underneath me behind a protective debris shield, which will be the first thing to go.
Here’s my team testing some of what’s coming up: pic.twitter.com/CWwtGw87EX
— NASA's Perseverance Mars Rover (@NASAPersevere) March 20, 2021
More about Ingenuity
Ingenuity is a small autonomous helicopter that’s developed by the good Samaritans over at NASA. The craft was carried to the surface of Mars attached to the belly of Perseverance. The mission undertaken by the helicopter is completely different of the Perseverance’s missions. The helicopter will take a powered flight in the thin Martian air.
The helicopter is built so that it could endure the harsh environmental wrath of Mars. It only weighs less than 4 pounds and can be easily brought back under the Perseverance if the weather conditions get even more harsh. The helicopter is capable of flying up to 90 seconds to 300 meters at a time flying above 10-15 feet from the ground.
With the flight, the folks over at NASA will get new information that will help them to create better decisions when it comes to considering autonomous helicopters being sent to Mars in future. If all goes well, the helicopters and aircrafts sent in future by NASA to Mars can play active role in scouting, surveying and carrying different types of scientific payloads.
When the helicopter takes to air, the scientists over at NASA and all across the world would also get a new insight into Mars’ air, its geology. All of these things may sound insignificant, but in the long run, it might help Earthlings explore Mars and other planets remotely.
Key specifications of Ingenuity
Weight: 4 pounds (1.8kg)
Power: Solar powered, self-recharge
Communications: Wireless communication system
Blade spin count: 2,400 rotations per minute
Sensors: navigation sensors, 2 cameras (color and b/w)
Weighs 4 pounds (1.8 kg)
1) Take the first powered flight in the super thin Martian atmosphere. Mars is known for having a lower gravity compared to Earth, but the atmosphere is just 1% as thick to Earth. This makes it all the more challenging for the helicopter to generate lift and take flight.
2) Demonstrate flying by shrinking down electronic components, processors and computers on board so that the helicopter is light enough to generate lift and take flight.
3) Take flight with as less human intervention as possible. The helicopter will make use of its own batteries to be charged, and its internal heaters to maintain optimum temperatures during cold Martian nights when the temperature can drop down to –125 C. The Perseverance will receive commands from NASA which will then be relayed to the helicopter. The flight will be performed with that relayed information and without any mission-controllers sitting on Earth.