Ingenuity has already touched the surface of Mars and will attempt a unique feat in space exploration: to be the first device to fly over another planet.
For the first time in history, a helicopter will attempt a controlled flight on Mars. Called ‘Ingenuity‘, it is one more component of Perseverance, the NASA space mission that landed on the red planet on February 18.
The helicopter that will fly over the martian atmosphere it is the first flying artifact that it will attempt to perform a controlled and powered journey on another planet. If successful, the data could provide important information for later missions in the near future.
#MarsHelicopter touchdown confirmed! Its 293 million mile (471 million km) journey aboard @NASAPersevere ended with the final drop of 4 inches (10 cm) from the rover’s belly to the surface of Mars today. Next milestone? Survive the night. https://t.co/TNCdXWcKWE pic.twitter.com/XaBiSNebua
– NASA JPL (@NASAJPL) April 4, 2021
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An experimental flight
First of all, you have to understand that Ingenuity is an experimental flight. It gets its name from the naive stimulus that has given rise to technological advance: the desire to know, to discover. Unlike the Perseverance rover, the protagonist of the mission, the helicopter does not carry any scientific instrument with him.
The objective of Ingenuity, then, is linked to engineering: to demonstrate that the flight of a helicopter in extremely thin atmosphere from Mars is possible. Regarding the mission, MiMi Aung, Ingenuity project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), noted the following:
“Our team at Mars Helicopter has been doing things that had never been done before, that no one from the beginning could be sure could be done. We faced many challenges along the way that could have brought us to a halt. We are delighted to be so close to demonstrating, on Mars, what Ingenuity can really do. “
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An intelligent robot
Photo: NASA / JPL-Caltech
It is common that in this type of technological endeavor, the communication is complicated as they move away from Earth. Despite its size similar to that of a drone, the scientists in charge of the mission to Mars highlight how smart it is Ingenuity, shown in the interactive graphic above.
This means that the engineers in charge will not be able to maintain complete control of the helicopter. On the contrary, they may have access to images that I recover until long after the flight takes place.
For this reason, the robot will make some decisions on its own, based on the parameters set from Earth, from which it will analyze data from the sensors it has integrated. In addition, Ingenuity has integrated a programmed thermostat that will keep it at a suitable temperature on Mars.
With its unique point of view, the robot promises new exploration possibilities on other planets. It seems that Mars is the first step to learn more about other planets by air (of course, only if the mission is successful).
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