On April 19, at NASA they crossed their fingers waiting for everything to go well on the first flight over Mars of the Ingenuity helicopter. The operation was a success, making the vehicle the first motorized craft to fly to another planet. It was scheduled to take another four flights, for a total of five. However, once that objective was surpassed, it was found that he could give more of himself, so missions continued to be scheduled. To date, he has flown 12 times and, seeing what he has seen, it seems that he could do it many more and that he could reach a great longevity.
In fact, NASA just announced that the mission will last indefinitely. With this helicopter, even the most optimistic predictions tend to fall short, so they have already decided do not get your fingers caught. Ingenuity will fly as long as it can. No more.
All for the longevity of the Ingenuity helicopter
Initially, the Ingenuity helicopter was not thought to be able to fly more than five times. The reason is simple: it is very far.
Communications with Mars have a certain delay, so the helicopter cannot be controlled in real time
Communication with Mars cannot be done in real time, there is some delay, so it is impossible for engineers to control the vehicle from Earth.
For this reason, on the one hand it flies thanks to the sensors that detect possible obstacles and, on the other, to the maps made by the members of the mission. Thanks to the knowledge of the area, it was relatively easy to give orders, through the rover Perseverance, his inseparable companion. These orders were a kind of programmed route, for which real-time communication was not required.
The problem is that, once the third flight was over, they began to enter less explored areas and, after the fifth, totally unknown.
However, after successfully overcoming this, they decided to keep trying. It was no surprise that on the sixth flight the Ingenuity helicopter gave the mission members a little scare. It was surprising how quickly the problem could be solved and how he managed to finish the attempt successfully. They decided that perhaps a seventh attempt was not far-fetched. And so, little by little, they have reached the twelfth.
How long will it last?
The Ingenuity helicopter has already exceeded any previous expectation of longevity. At the beginning the mission consisted of hundreds of people. However, as it has been taking over the red planet, many of them have been declining until, according to Science Alert, they have been left alone twelve attentive to him.
The hot streak could change with the Martian winter
But they are enough, given the results. The vehicle is doing very well and the work of the scientists who supervise it from the ground is unbeatable, but it must be recognized that it has also come across some very conducive conditions.
According to statements collected by . from the head of the mechanical engineering team, Josh ravichNeither the temperatures, nor the wind, nor the sun have been so extreme as to seriously endanger the vehicle. Yes it is true that it has managed to fly with winds greater than those predicted it could withstand. But nothing extreme. Now, however, things could change, as the Martian winter is approaching and that could be a challenge for the Ingenuity helicopter.
Either way, even if it stopped working right now, it would have already accomplished much more than it was thought it could. The purpose for which it was created is ease the way of Perseverance, looking for safe routes of scientific interest. For example, the initial destination that had been plotted for the rover, a region called South Seitha, has turned out to be less interesting than previously thought, so it will probably be necessary to change course.
For now, there will be flight thirteen. Or at least it will be tried. And, having seen what has been seen, it would not be strange if there is still more. However, you have to be prepared for anything, so NASA is already thinking about alternatives.
For example, a new motorized vehicle, Something bigger. The Ingenuity helicopter weighs slightly less than 1.8 kilograms, so it could not transport payloads with the. Therefore, if they build another, they are expected to do so. from 20 to 30 kg; so that, in addition to looking for the best routes, it serves to carry, for example, the rocks collected by Perseverance. But that would be for the future. At the moment it seems that Ingenuity still has a war to wage. Much more than its creators could have dreamed of.