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 subject away. The spot the place it landed will function its base of operations for the following month not less than, starting a brand new section of the mission the place it’s going to function a scout for its bigger robotic companion, the Perseverance rover.
In keeping with what NASA mentioned earlier than the flight, Ingenuity retraced the course of its earlier flight, heading south for 423 ft at an altitude of 16 ft. However as a substitute of turning round, it stopped and climbed increased, to 33 ft, to take some photos of the world. 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 individuals 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 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 underneath 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 crew had a month and as much as 5 flights to show that managed, powered flying was potential 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 all the authentic objectives.
In a weblog put up, Joshua Ravich, Ingenuity’s mechanical engineering lead, mentioned the facility system, the warmers, the navigation system and the rotors have been all working properly. “Our helicopter is much more sturdy than we had hoped,” he wrote.
That opened the door to utilizing Ingenuity not solely as a proof of the essential know-how but in addition to supply 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 collectively by the Ingenuity crew gave us confidence that our new airfield is flat as a pancake — an excellent factor when you need to land on it,” Mr. Ravich mentioned.
Through the fourth flight, Perseverance, parked greater than 250 ft from the helicopter, efficiently recorded the sound of Ingenuity’s rotors slicing by means 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, mentioned in a NASA information launch. “This recording might be a gold mine for our understanding of the Martian ambiance.”
After the transfer of Ingenuity to its new base, the main focus of the Perseverance crew now shifts to its scientific research, which have been largely on maintain in the course of the check 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 when that each one goes properly, Ingenuity might proceed tagging together with Perseverance throughout the Martian panorama.