With creativity on Mars, NASA wants to prove that it is possible to fly elsewhere

It’s a challenge on NASA’s mighty mission to Mars. At the end of the day, Sunday, April 11, a lightweight helicopter in the shape of a large unmanned aircraft launched by the Perseverance Vehicle last weekend will attempt to take off from the surface of the Red Planet.

If he succeeds, Creativity, with his little nameIt will be the first motorized aerial vehicle to fly anywhere other than our planet. This would mark a major breakthrough in the history of space exploration in light of the unfavorable properties of Mars air. The density in place is only 1% that of the Earth’s atmosphere, making it more difficult to obtain lift. For a vehicle to fly there, it would need to be 5.5 times faster than its speed on the ground.

So creativity is specifically designed to tackle these physical challenges: both suffice Lightweight (1.8 kg) is enough strong To be able to ascend in the beautiful atmosphere of Mars. Their blades are more than a meter long, and are larger than the blades of a similar machine on Earth. They spin six times faster at approximately 2,400 rpm. The tests carried out in the laboratory under the conditions of Mars were conclusive. It remains to be verified on Mars.

Creativity is ready for its first test

Upon reaching Mars at the same time of perseverance on February 18th, the creativity remained for a long time under the rover hull in a chamber protected from the polar temperatures of the Martian night. It was not deposited on the planet’s surface until April 4 after several delicate maneuvers, interspersed with a selfie by the probe.

Perseverance perpetuated creativity on Mars
Credit: NASA / Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Success # 1: The creativity, which has so far relied on rover power, survived this week His first nights alone on Mars. A major step because temperatures drop below zero at night on the Red Planet and the helicopter can now rely solely on its own solar panels to heat its batteries and power them.

First image taken by Ingenuity on Mars
First image taken by Ingenuity on Mars
Credit: NASA / Jet Propulsion Laboratory

According to the last elements reported by NASA on Friday, Dexterity is now in full health on the red planet. It has stored enough energy to run its first test and its blades rotate normally. Takeoff is scheduled for late Mars morning on Sunday, when winds blow less strongly into the Jizero Crater. Weather conditions promise to be favorable.

If everything goes smoothly, Creativity will rise to three meters above sea level Before it actually turned and landed. Because it cannot fly more than a few seconds. In total, five flights are planned during his mission, which is slated to span over thirty days of Mars.

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Attractive prospects for future explorations

Unlike drones, operations will not be controlled remotely from the ground. Dexterity will operate in almost complete autonomy. Scientists just recorded some instructions. They will follow their progress with a delay of several minutes thanks to the images transmitted by the cameras of the helicopter. Perseverance will also serve to film that first flight. The photos will be released to the public from Monday On NASA Channels During the long-awaited debriefing.

This demonstration flight holds high hopes for NASA. Autonomous rolling robots and other tracked tanks have revealed a wealth of information about Mars and the worlds above our heads. But they cannot cover much ground as they move at low speed to deal with any mishap. Mastering a flying machine would open up delicious opportunities for scientists who could do so Explore more rugged worlds Or use it as a Scouts for astronauts During future missions.

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