This time, NASA’s Mars robotic helicopter Ingenuity didn’t come again.
That was meant.
On Friday, Ingenuity, which final month turned 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 discipline away. The spot the place it landed will function its base of operations for the subsequent month a minimum of, starting a brand new part of the mission the place it should function a scout for its bigger robotic companion, the Perseverance rover.
In line with what NASA mentioned earlier than the flight, Ingenuity retraced the course of its earlier flight, heading south for 423 toes at an altitude of 16 toes. However as an alternative of turning round, it stopped and climbed greater, to 33 toes, to take some footage 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 folks 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 toes tall and weighing 4 kilos, is an $85 million add-on mission to the $2.7 billion Perseverance mission, which is trying to find indicators of previous life on Mars. The helicopter traveled to Mars tucked below 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 group had a month and as much as 5 flights to reveal that managed, powered flying was potential on Mars, the place the ambiance on the floor is simply 1 p.c 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 submit, Joshua Ravich, Ingenuity’s mechanical engineering lead, mentioned the ability system, the warmers, the navigation system and the rotors had been all working properly. “Our helicopter is much more strong than we had hoped,” he wrote.
That opened the door to utilizing Ingenuity not solely as a proof of the essential expertise but additionally to supply aerial reconnaissance of the encompassing 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 group gave us confidence that our new airfield is flat as a pancake — a very good factor when it’s important to land on it,” Mr. Ravich mentioned.
In the course of the fourth flight, Perseverance, parked greater than 250 toes from the helicopter, efficiently recorded the sound of Ingenuity’s rotors slicing via the Martian air.
“We have now 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 will probably 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 group now shifts to its scientific research, which have been largely on maintain through the take a look at flights.
Ingenuity is anticipated 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 every one goes properly, Ingenuity might proceed tagging together with Perseverance throughout the Martian panorama.