NASA’s plan to get Ingenuity by way of the Martian winter

In this concept illustration provided by NASA, NASA's Ingenuity Mars Helicopter stands on the Red Planet's surface as NASA's Mars 2020 Perseverance rover rolls away.

Enlarge / On this idea illustration offered by NASA, NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter stands on the Pink Planet’s floor as NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover rolls away. (credit score: NASA)

Ingenuity, NASA’s autonomous Mars helicopter, was solely meant to finish 5 flights. However since its history-making first flight in April 2021, the helicopter has flown 28 instances, and preparation is underway for the 29th. Relying on mud ranges and the schedule of the rover Perseverance, that flight may happen as quickly as later this week. However now Ingenuity faces a brand new problem: It’s unclear if the helicopter will survive the approaching Martian winter, which begins in July.

Since a Martian 12 months quantities to roughly two years on Earth, and the helicopter is within the northern hemisphere, that is Ingenuity’s first winter. Because the solstice approaches, days are getting shorter and nights longer, and mud storms may change into extra frequent. That every one means much less daylight for the photo voltaic panels mounted above the helicopter’s twin 4-foot rotor blades. Mud on photo voltaic panels not too long ago spelled the top of operations for NASA’s InSight Mars lander, and the consequences of chilly on electronics is believed to have performed a task in the long run of the Alternative and Spirit Mars rover missions.

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