NASA’s Ingenuity Mars helicopter will hit double figures this weekend as it makes its tenth flight on the Red Planet, investigating ‘raised ridges’ in the Jezero crater.
The tiny 4lb chopper could return to the Martian skies as early as tomorrow, according to the US space agency, almost three weeks after its last trip.
The tenth flight will see it continue efforts to support the NASA Perseverance rover in its mission to gather rock samples and search for signs of ancient life on Mars.
The specific flight plan hasn’t been revealed but it will continue making flights over ‘Raised Ridges,’ a collection of rock features in the Jezero crater that are of interest to the Perseverance team, and could be the location of future sample collection.
The 4-pound helicopter arrived on Mars in February in conjunction with the Perseverance rover
The tiny 4lb chopper could return to the Martian skies as early as tomorrow, according to the US space agency, almost three weeks after its last trip
INGENUITY: FIRST EIGHT FLIGHTS ON MARS
Flight one: April 19, 2021 with a vertical takeoff up to 9.8ft, stationary hover and a landing
Flight two: April 22, 2021 with a vertical takeoff up to 16ft, hover, then shift westward for 14ft before returning and landing
Flight three: April 25, 2021 with a vertical takeoff up to 16ft, hover, shift northwards for 328ft at an airspeed of 2 m/s before returning to land
Flight four: April 30, 2021 with a vertical takeoff up to 16ft, hover, shift southwards 873ft at 3.5m/s before returning to land
Flight five: May 7, 2021 with a vertical takeoff up to 33ft, hover, shift southwards 423ft at 3.5 m/s before landing at that new location
Flight six: May 22, 2021 with a vertical takeoff of 33ft, hover, shift southwest 492ft at 9mph, travel 49ft south, travel 164ft before returning to land
Flight seven: June 8, 2021 with a vertical takeoff of 33ft, hover, shift 348ft at 9mph, land at Airfield D
Flight eight: June 21, 2021 with a vertical takeoff, hover, shift southwest 520ft, land at Airfield E 438ft away from Perseverance
Flight nine: July 5, 2021 with a record length of 2,050ft southwest over a prospective research location at 16ft per second.
Ingenuity arrived on the Red Planet on February 18 strapped to the belly of the Perseverance rover in the 28-mile wide Jezero crater.
In the distant past of Mars the region was home to a lake and river delta, making it a prime candidate for finding signs of ancient microbial life.
The helicopter first deployed from Perseverance on April 3, starting a 30-day clock to make its first powered flight.
Ingenuity, which is just 18-inches tall, made its first flight on April 19, 2021, making history as the first powered controlled flight on another planet.
Since then it has completed nine successful flights, the first five as part of a ‘technical demonstration’ to prove something could fly on Mars.
The subsequent flights are part of an extended mission support role, helping Perseverance.
During its extended mission ingenuity has showcased the scouting potential of Mars aerial vehicles.
This includes checking out a geologic unit called Seitah on its ninth flight on July 5.
This included study of sand dunes that make it tricky for Perseverance to drive over, allowing the NASA team to study areas Perseverance couldn’t reach.
This will allow the Perseverance team to predict ‘toe-dip’ spots where the rover can explore without driving all the way in.
NASA has not yet said what the tenth Ingenuity flight will look like, other than that it will also explore the Raised Ridges studied by the ninth flight.
During the last flight Ingenuity captured some images of Raised Ridges but the team want more images of the fracture system through which liquid water once flowed.
The team have been gradually pushing Ingenuity to go further and faster.
During the ninth flight it travelled 2,051ft and reached a top speed of 11 miles per hour, staying int he air for 166 seconds.
Durining its first flight it stayed aloft for 39 seconds, reached a height of 9.8ft and didn’t travel anywhere. In the second flight it moved 13ft at less than one mph.
While airborne, Ingenuity keeps track of its motion using an onboard inertial measurement unit (IMU) – that tracks acceleration and rotation rates.
By integrating this information over time, it is possible to estimate where it is, how fast it is moving, and how it is oriented in space.
Despite encountering an anomaly on its sixth flight, NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter has successfully completed its seventh and eighth flights
Ingenuity has been used to take photographs of ancient landscapes not suitable for driving over with the heavy Perseverance rover
The onboard control system reacts to the estimated motions by adjusting control inputs rapidly – at a rate of 500 times per second.
The $2.7 billion Perseverance is currently heading south from its landing spot on the Jezero Crater, where it landed 125 sols (Martian days) ago, on February 18.
So far, it has driven 0.32 miles within the crater, NASA said, where it is performing a number of tasks, including searching for evidence of ancient life.
NASA MARS 2020: THE MISSION WILL SEE THE PERSEVERANCE ROVER AND INGENUITY HELICOPTER SEARCH FOR LIFE
NASA’s Mars 2020 mission will search for signs of ancient life on the Red Planet in a bid to help scientists better understand how life evolved on Earth.
Named Perseverance, the main car-sized rover is explore an ancient river delta within the Jezero Crater, which was once filled with a 1,600ft deep lake.
It is believed that the region hosted microbial life some 3.5 to 3.9 billion years ago and the rover will examine soil samples to hunt for evidence of the life.
Nasa’s Mars 2020 rover (artist’s impression) is searching for signs of ancient life on Mars in a bid to help scientists better understand how life evolved on our own planet
The $2.5 billion (£1.95 billion) Mars 2020 spaceship launched on July 30 with the rover and helicopter inside – and landed successfully on February 18, 2021.
Perseverance landed inside the crater and will collect samples that will eventually be returned to Earth for further analysis.
A second mission will fly to the planet and return the samples, perhaps by the later 2020s in partnership with the European Space Agency.
This concept art shows the Mars 2020 rover landing on the red planet via NASA’s ‘sky-crane’ system