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NASA launches mission that will test the first flight on Mars

publicado a la‎(s)‎ 21 jul 2020, 5:38 por Plataforma Sites Dgac   [ actualizado el 28 oct 2020, 10:36 ]
Since time immemorial, Humankind has raised its eyes to the sky and set them on Mars, which together with Venus are the planets closest to Earth and which have ignited our imagination in regards to the search for life in space and our visiting other worlds.
This is how the Martian helicopter Ingenuity looks like. It will perform the first flights by a propelled vehicle made by humans at the Red Planet.
Little by little, the secrets of Mars have begun to be revealed thanks to several missions to the Red Planet since 1965, when NASA’s Mariner 4 probe made the first flyby and sent the first close-up images of the Martian surface. 

At first, the United States and the Soviet Union were the only countries capable of sending missions into space, but over the years new countries have joined them at the task. 

For 2020, there are several missions scheduled for Mars by the United States, China, the European Union, Russia and the United Arab Emirates. 

The Mars Helicopter 

One of the most ambitious projects launched this year is the so-called Mars Helicopter Ingenuity, which will test the first powered flying artifact on the Red Planet. 

It is a small autonomous aircraft 49 centimeters high and with a weight of 1.8 kilos that is being transported to Mars attached to the Perseverance probe, which was launched from the United States Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Florida, on July 29, 2020. 

NASA experts predict that both vehicles will reach the Martian surface on February 18, 2021, at Jezero Crater. 

The Ingenuity mission, experimental in nature, will be completely independent of the Perseverance scientific mission, which is a rover that will move on the Martian soil. During the months after landing, the helicopter will conduct flight tests in the thin Martian atmosphere.

Its performance during the experimental flights will contribute to decision making and to consider the use of small helicopters for future missions on Mars, where they could have a supporting role as robotic explorers, surveying the terrain from above, or as a proper scientific vehicle. It will carry several instruments. 

According to NASA, putting a vehicle in the air will give scientists a new perspective on the geology of the region and even help them explore areas that are too steep or slippery for a rover moving on the ground.

The project is just a technology demonstration; it is not designed to support the Mars 2020 Perseverance mission, which will search for signs of ancient life and collect rock and sediment samples for possible return to Earth on subsequent missions. 

Test flights 

After its deployment between 60 to 90 Martian days after Perseverance reaches the surface of the Red Planet, the ground vehicle will move approximately 100 meters away from the helicopter, allowing Ingenuity to begin its test flights. The vehicle would fly up to five times, and no more than once per day, during its 30-day tests campaign.

Each flight would last no more than three minutes, at an altitude of between 3 and 10 meters above the surface, and could cover 300 meters of distance.

The helicopter’s propeller will rotate at 2,400 revolutions per minute in a vehicle specially designed to sustain itself and move through the less dense Martian atmosphere, where there is less pressure and extreme temperatures.

The technology demonstration could lay the foundation from which more capable aircraft could be developed for aerial exploration of Mars and other planets with atmospheres.

Ingenuity uses counter-rotating coaxial rotors around 1.1 meters in diameter. As cargo, the project managers will equip it with a high-resolution downward-focused camera for navigation, descent and terrain surveying, as well as a communications system to send data to Perseverance.

The device also includes radiation resistant systems capable of operating in the frigid environment of Mars and will use solar panels to recharge its batteries.