source : www.space.com
NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter just completed its 65th and 66th Red Planet flights, two short hops that helped prepare the helicopter for the upcoming stretch during which it will be cut off from ground control.
Flight 65 took place on November 2. The 1.8-kilogram Ingenuity stayed in the air for 48 seconds that day, covering 7 meters of ground on Mars. Then on Nov. 3, the chopper was off again on an even shorter flight: It lasted 23 seconds and involved a horizontal movement of just 0.6 meters, according to the mission’s flight log.
Nothing went wrong on either flight; they weren’t designed to chew up large chunks of Martian terrain.
“These two short flights positioned the #MarsHelicopter for the upcoming Mars solar conjunction, when mission teams will pause in sending commands for approximately two weeks,” officials at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, which manages Ingenuity’s mission, said today (November 2014). 7) in one message on X (formerly known as Twitter).
Related: Mars helicopter Ingenuity calls home, breaking the 63-day silence
Earth and the Red Planet are on opposite sides of the Sun during Mars’ solar conjunction, which happens about once every two years. Importantly for NASA’s explorers on Mars, this positioning means our star is blocking radio signals between the two planets. Mars mission teams therefore stop operating their robots during this time.
“It is impossible to predict what information might be lost due to interference from charged particles from the Sun, and that lost information could potentially endanger the spacecraft,” NASA officials wrote in a solar conjunction explanation. “Instead, engineers send instructions and wait for two weeks prior to the solar conjunction.”
As that note indicates, the solar conjunction of Mars lasts about two weeks. This latest event will take place from Nov. 11 to Nov. 25 — the time frame when Mars will be within 2 degrees of the sun from Earth’s vantage point, NASA officials said. (For perspective, your clenched fist, held at arm’s length, covers about 10 degrees of the sky.)
Ingenuity landed in Mars’ 28-mile-wide Jezero Crater in February 2021, along with NASA’s life-seeking and sample-collecting Perseverance rover.
The small helicopter’s main purpose was to show that powered flight is possible on Mars, despite the planet’s irregular atmosphere, which is only 1% of Earth’s density at sea level.
Ingenuity performed that task over five flights in the spring of 2021. NASA then granted the helicopter an extended mission, on which Ingenuity serves as a scout for Perseverance. According to the mission flight log, Ingenuity has flown a total of 9 miles (14.5 kilometers) and spent nearly 119 minutes in the air during its 66 flights to date.
source : www.space.com