On Earth, it’s a new year, and in 2022 on Mars, there’s a lot to look forward to. The NASA Ingenuity helicopter is gearing up for its maiden flight of the year, which will be the chopper’s 19th altogether. Because of the terrain it’s on, the Ingenuity team expects takeoff to be complicated.
Flight 19 isn’t expected to take off until Friday at the earliest. However, the incredible rotorcraft has outlasted its five-flight lifespan and is still flying well in the harsh circumstances of the Jezero Crater.
Every mission to Mars is a tiny miracle. The chopper’s initial flight demonstrated that it was feasible. The following flights put its skills to the test. The most recent flights supported its sister, the Perseverance rover. Ingenuity pilot Martin Cacan stated in a status update on Tuesday, “The current mission goal is to reach the Jezero river delta to aid the Perseverance rover in course planning and scientific discoveries.”
Flight 19, which is expected to last around 100 seconds, will not be simple. “While the trip is brief, it has a difficult start due to the featureless sandy landscape on which the helicopter currently sits,” Cacan wrote. To assist it in tracking its location, Ingenuity employs a navigation camera. The topography prompted some cautions during Flight 18’s landing, but the team is hopeful that changes to Ingenuity’s settings will allow for a smooth ascent.
Since its arrival on Mars in early 2021, Ingenuity and Perseverance have shown to be a formidable duo. As the rover continues to roll and collect rock samples and the helicopter serves as a scout from the air, the new year will be filled with exploration and scientific study.