The robot will be responsible for supporting the Perseverance rover in its main mission: the quest for ancient life on the red planet.
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One more month. After successfully proving that it was possible to fly on Mars, NASA announced on Friday April 30 that the mission of the small Ingenuity helicopter was extended by 30 days to make it the companion of the rover Perseverance.
It will now be responsible for supporting the rover in its main mission, the quest for ancient life on Mars, for example by going to explore places of scientific interest, inaccessible by driving, or by locating the safest path.
“Perhaps one day, human explorers will also be accompanied by flying devices to help them, and this is also what this new phase will allow to test”, explained Lori Glaze, director of NASA’s division on the study of planets. “After 30 days we will assess where we are”, she added, not ruling out extending the experiment further thereafter.
Be careful though, Ingenuity “was not really designed for a long mission”, delayed Bob Balaram, chief engineer of the machine, pointing in particular to the harmful effect of repeated cycles of freezing and thawing. It will also be necessary that Ingenuity does not crash, while its flights will be more and more perilous.
For the moment, he has successfully completed them all, including the fourth this Friday, the longest achieved so far: 266 meters in total, in 117 seconds. NASA then anticipates two other flights over the 30 days.