NASA’s Plan to Get Ingenuity Through the Martian Winter

Ingenuity, NASA’s self-driving Mars chopper, was only supposed to fly five times. However, since its historic first flight early April 2021, the helicopter has soared 28 times, with preparations for the 29th underway. That trip might happen as soon at later this week, depending on dust conditions and the rover Perseverance’s timetable. However, Ingenuity now has a challenge: it is unknown if the aircraft will survive the next Martian winter, that begins in July.

Since the chopper is in the hemisphere and a Martian year is equivalent to nearly two years on This earth, this is Ingenuity’s first winter. Days are growing shorter & nights longer as the solstice draws near, and dust storms may become more common. The solar panels atop the helicopter’s twin 4-foot propeller blades will receive less sunlight as a result of all of this. Recently, dust on solar panels caused NASA’s InSight Mars lander to cease operations, and it’s thought that the Opportunity and Spirit Mars lander missions were also terminated due to the impact of cold on electronics.

“We feel it’s survivable,” NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter programme executive Dave Lavery told WIRED, but “every more day is a gift.” Teddy Tzanetos, the leader of the JPL Ingenuity team, recently stated in a NASA blog article that “each sol (Martian day) might be Ingenuity’s last.”

Ingenuity momentarily lost touch with Earth last month due to a decrease in battery capacity, the bulk of which is devoted to heating. After two days, NASA regained communication with Ingenuity, however owing to battery levels dropping below 70% and continuously cold temperatures, Ingenuity will halt usage of onboard warmers at night to conserve power throughout the 4 winter.

Normally, heaters operate when the outside temperature drops below -5 degrees Fahrenheit; but, after last month’s battery power and communications failure, that threshold was lowered to -40 degrees. The chance that the electronics within the helicopter may be harmed is increased by the fact that nighttime outside temperatures on Mars can dip to -112 during the winter.

The failure of a sensor, which forced NASA to postpone flight 29 and rely on a different sensor to control Ingenuity’s navigation algorithms, was disclosed by NASA on Monday.

Sandstorms are a deciding factor. A team from the University of Houston reviewed data from NASA sensor over four Martian years and discovered that solar energy imbalances and hot climate in the south boost the chance of enormous dust storms that really can blanket the whole planet. Late spring are storm periods, but the chance of severe storms decreases as the north near the winter solstice, according to Liming Li, an associate professor at the University of Houston. However, there is one caveat: the research is worldwide but does not take into consideration any specific location. Conditions in craters may differ from those on the rest of a surface, as well as the helicopter is flying in those conditions.

When asked if there will be other dust storms, Li responded, “It’s hard to say.” Before we actually measure it, it is difficult to provide a complete picture of the ρ in the Jezero Crater.

As Ingenuity suspends normal flight operations, the team will concentrate on uploading data such as flight performance records and high-definition photos from the previous eight flights, as well as implementing software changes. According to a future climate, NASA anticipates solar levels of energy to recover to a degree that will allow regular activities to resume this autumn. If Innovation is able to regain the capacity to heat its processes at night by Late september, it could resume normal flight operations, looking potential locations for the Perseverance robot to stash a catalogue of rock or soil specimens and explore what researchers theorize was a river delta inside the Jezero Crater.

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