NASA is all set to fly a drone-like helicopter in the atmosphere of the red planet. The craft named Ingenuity, will hitch a ride to Mars aboard the Perseverance lander, making it the first experimental flight on another planet.
Crux of the Matter
Ingenuity – The Mars Helicopter
The Ingenuity craft is a wheeled, robotic rover that has a mission to drive across the planet’s rugged surface. It will launch from Earth this summer, with the touchdown scheduled for 18 February 2021 on Mars. The craft is 50 cm high with four blades, mounted on twin, counter-rotating rotors covering 1.2 m. The size of the rotors was needed to be huge enough to fly in Mars’s thin atmosphere.
How Good A Photographer Is Ingenuity
Ingenuity carries a black-and-white navigation camera and images are beamed by short-range radio links to Perseverance, which then relays them to one of the NASA spacecrafts in Mars orbit. Subsequently, they are transmitted back to Earth. Dr. Bob Balaram, Ingenuity’s chief engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) says multiple images can then be stitched into a panorama using ground software tools.
What Is The Mission
The rover’s mission is astrobiological i.e it will search for signs of past microbial life. It will then characterize the planet’s climate and geology, collect samples for future passage back to Earth.
The helicopter’s main focus would be to return engineering data from the test flights that will provide valuable feedback to refine future designs and pave way for further human exploration of Mars. The primary plan is for it to complete five flights over a period of 30 days for now.
Part Of The Bigger Picture?
The Mars 2020 Perseverance rover mission is part of a larger program that includes missions to the Moon as a way to prepare for human exploration of the Red Planet. Charged with returning astronauts to the Moon by 2024, NASA will establish a sustained human presence on and around the Moon by 2028 through NASA’s Artemis lunar exploration plans.
- The Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is a federally funded research and development center and NASA field center in the city of La Cañada Flintridge. The laboratory’s primary function is the construction and operation of planetary robotic spacecraft and has managed all four successful robotically operated Mars rovers.
- Mars Cube One (or MarCO) was a Mars flyby mission that consisted of two nano spacecraft, MarCO-A and MarCO-B, that provided a real-time communications link to Earth. The two spacecraft were nicknamed by JPL engineers as WALL-E and EVE in reference to the main characters in the animated film WALL-E.
- The Martian is a 2015 science fiction film starring Matt Damon. The film depicts an astronaut’s lone struggle to survive on Mars after being left behind, and efforts to rescue him and bring him home to Earth.