NASA to Launch New Operations Demonstration Phase for Ingenuity Mars Helicopter
NASA’s Ingenuity Mars helicopter is scheduled to enter a new operations demonstration phase to explore how aerial scouting can benefit future missions.
On April 19, Ingenuity completed the first powered controlled flight by an aircraft on another planet. The new demonstration phase will commence in about two weeks with the helicopter’s sixth flight, NASA said.
The agency said it decided to launch the new phase on the grounds that the Mars mission is ahead of schedule and that Ingenuity’s systems are performing better than expected.
“Since Ingenuity remains in excellent health, we plan to use it to benefit future aerial platforms while prioritizing and moving forward with the Perseverance rover team’s near-term science goals,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator at NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.
The SMD works with the U.S. science community, sponsors scientific research and deploys spacecraft in collaboration with NASA’s partners.
Despite its higher overall risk, Ingenuity’s transition out of technology demonstration is expected to enable more precision maneuvering and greater use of aerial observation capabilities.
NASA said Ingenuity will also require less support from the Perseverance rover team, which is currently tasked with finding signs of ancient microscopic life from rocks and sediments.
In the near term, Ingenuity will perform aerial observations near Perseverance to help the rover find its science targets, route paths, observe otherwise inaccessible features and capture stereo images for digital elevation maps.
NASA said that the lessons learned from Ingenuity’s “bonus” mission will still benefit future mission planners, despite the operation not being integral to Perseverance’s science mission.
Tags: demonstration Ingenuity MARS NASA Perseverance rover science mission Science Mission Directorate space Thomas Zurbuchen