Florida, August 1st, 2020.
The latest space rover launched early Thursday morning on an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida and should arrive on the Red Planet on February 18th, 2021.
“The Perseverance mission will bring all human senses to Mars,” said NASA’s Thomas Zurbuchen during a press conference. “It will sense the air around it, see and scan the horizon, hear the planet with microphones on the surface for the first time, feel it as it picks up samples to cache, perhaps even taste it, in a sense,” as it performs chemical analysis of the dust, he said.
On board there is also a tiny helicopter called Ingenuity that is planned to be the first aircraft ever to get off the ground in the atmosphere of another planet.
What makes it hard for a helicopter to fly on Mars?
Mars’ thin atmosphere makes it difficult to achieve enough lift. Because the Mars atmosphere is 99% less dense than Earth’s, Ingenuity has to be light, with rotor blades that are much larger and spin much faster than for a helicopter of Ingenuity’s mass on Earth.
It can also be bone-chillingly cold at Jezero Crater, where Perseverance will land with Ingenuity attached to its belly in February 2021. Nights there dip down to minus 130 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 90 degrees Celsius).
Weighing just about 4.0 pounds, the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter is a tiny helicopter designed to test — for the ﬁrst time — powered ﬂight in the almost airless Martian atmosphere.
The Mars Helicopter Delivery System attaches the helicopter to the belly of the rover for their journey to the Red Planet.
This system protects Ingenuity from debris during landing and will get the helicopter working roughly two-and-a-half months after landing on Mars .
While Ingenuity’s team on Earth has tested the helicopter at Martian temperatures and believes it will work on Mars, the cold will push the design limits of many of Ingenuity’s parts.
In addition, flight controllers won’t be able to control the helicopter with a joystick, because it will just be too far away. Commands will need to be sent well in advance, with feedback from the spacecraft long after each flight takes place.
In the meantime, Ingenuity will just have to live up to its name and make its own decisions about how to fly to a certain landmark and back and keep itself warm. Bon voyage, Ingenuity!
Learn more about the tiny chopper and see it fly in this video published by NASA.
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Information in this article is sourced from NASA press releases. For more information from the NASA Web site, go there.