NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter unlike any other! All you need to know about this unique experiment

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Published: June 24, 2020 5:43 PM

According to NASA, the Ingenuity helicopter is not instrumental to the Mars 2020 mission and is only a demonstration of technology.

NASA, NASA Mars mission 2020, nasa ingenuity mars Helicopter mission, mars, earth, space, space programmeIngenuity, with the help of Perseverance, will cover a distance of 50.5 crore kilometres to reach Mars in January 2021. (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

NASA Ingenuity Mars Helicopter: As a part of its Mars 2020 Mission, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) will launch its Ingenuity Mars Helicopter attached to the belly of the Perseverance rover. The mission is slated for launch between July 20 and August 11, 2020, and as the D-day comes closer, the space agency is ramping up its efforts to bring its mission to fruition. The mission of Ingenuity is experimental and is independent of the science mission led by Perseverance. Here is all you need to know about Ingenuity.

Ingenuity Helicopter: Aim of the mission

According to NASA, the Ingenuity helicopter is not instrumental to the Mars 2020 mission and is only a demonstration of technology to understand the alternative methods of undertaking such a mission in the future.

  • During the first few months after landing on the Red Planet, Ingenuity would test a powered flight for the first time ever in the thin Martian air, which is only 1% as thick as Earth’s. Even though the gravity of Mars is only a third that of Earth, the thin atmosphere makes such a lift off much harder. Ingenuity is slated to test whether the technology developed by NASA is capable of undertaking such a flight.
  • It is also supposed to demonstrate miniaturised flying technology, which requires the shrinking down of computers, electronics and other parts on board to enable easy flying of the helicopter.
  • Ingenuity is also supposed to operate autonomously using solar-powered batteries to carry out operations and internal heaters to maintain temperature during cold nights on Mars. The space agency said that upon receiving commands sent from Earth via Perseverance, each test flight of Ingenuity would be performed without any real-time input for the controllers of the Mars Helicopter mission.
  • Apart from this, in the long run, the Ingenuity mission could help in making informed decisions regarding the use of small helicopters on future missions to the Red Planet. These helicopters could play a support role like surveying the terrain from above, acting as robotic scouts, or it could also carry instrument payloads. Aerial view of the planet would allow scientists to understand the geology of the region from a new perspective and look at areas which are steep or slippery, making it hard for the rover to land.

NASA’s Ingenuity: Key features of the helicopter

  • The helicopter has a height of about 19 inches, and its rotor system span is 4 feet.
  • Ingenuity weighs 1.8 kg and it can recharge on its own using solar power.
  • It has a wireless communication system.
  • The counter-rotating blades can spin at a speed of about 2,400 rpm.
  • Ingenuity has been fitted with two cameras, one of which is coloured and the other is black and white, computers and navigation sensors.

NASA’s Mars 2020 mission: What is Ingenuity team up to?

Ingenuity, with the help of Perseverance, will cover a distance of 50.5 crore kilometres to reach Mars in January 2021. However, the team which is controlling the Mars Helicopter mission, the last 13 centimetres of the journey are the most challenging. Once the rover lands, safe navigation of those five inches will be achieved using the Mars Helicopter Delivery System.

According to NASA, if everything is according to plan, the NASA Helicopter mission controllers would command Ingenuity’s delivery system to release and the helicopter would cover the last 5 inches. Once the drop is confirmed, the rover would be commanded to move away so that Ingenuity can recharge with its solar panel. That is when Ingenuity’s flight test programme is slated to commence.

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