The Ingenuity mission continues until September, assures NASA

The Ingenuity Mini Helicopter, who landed on Mars in February 2021has already carried out 16 more flights than planned by the American space agency (Nasa). Since then, the agency has decided to continue takeoffs and flights of the vehicle for as long as it can – and it is, with NASA extending Ingenuity’s mission until “at least” September.

Ingenuity began as a side Mars exploration project, reaching the red planet attached to the belly of the rover perseverance. As the ground vehicle explored the region known as Jezero Crater, the mini-helicopter would only perform five take-offs to prove its flight capabilities on Mars. He was so successful that he completed 21 flights and gained new assignments in his mission, such as identifying unconventional routes for Perseverance.

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Now, through a statement, this mission has been extended again. According to the text published on the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory website (JPL-Caltech), said the small 4kg flying vehicle should continue to provide an aerial view of Jezero Crater, where billions of years ago there was a huge lake of water.

“In the coming months, the first flying vehicle in history to operate on the surface of another planet will support Perseverance in its imminent scientific campaign to explore a river delta in Jezero Crater. On this path he [Ingenuity] will continue to test its own capabilities to serve as the basis for future air vehicles on Mars.

Ingenuity recently completed its 21st flight, the first of three needed to cross the northern region of the crater – an area known as the “seitah”.

“Less than a year ago, we didn’t even know if controlled airplane flight to Mars was possible,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. “We are now looking at Ingenuity’s involvement in the second part of the Perseverance science campaign. This transformation of thought in such a short time is nothing short of spectacular, as well as one of the most historic in the annals of aerospace exploration.

This “second part” mentioned in the press release promises to be demanding: until now, Ingenuity took off from a relatively flat area – a desert region without major difficulties. The delta region, however, is the exact opposite, formed by high terrain, slopes with sharp rocks that rise about 40 meters (m) above the “bottom” of the crater.

Arriving in the new region, Ingenuity’s first command will be to analyze two dry river channels, determine which of the two should be used for Perseverance to ascend until it reaches the delta on the ground. Subsequently, he will be responsible for identifying regions where there is a high probability that samples will be collected by the rover.

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