For the last two decades, NASA has been sending robotic rovers over to Mars, to study more about its atmosphere. Spirit and Opportunity have retired, while Curiosity is still up and about and roaming the Red Planet. It is soon to be joined by the Perseverance rover.
Perseverance rover won’t be traveling alone, but it will be joined by the Ingenuity helicopter. This is the first time a helicopter will be taking a flight in the Martian atmosphere. Ingenuity helicopter will be attached to the belly of the Perseverance rover and will be protected by a shield. This shield will be removed once the rover makes a safe landing, and Ingenuity will be on its own, ready to explore the planet.
Martian atmosphere is several times thinner than that of the Earth, and this would be the first challenge faced by Ingenuity during its flight. NASA’s team plans on taking things slow while testing Ingenuity. Its first flight will not be longer than 30 seconds. Scientists believe that making that first flight, irrespective of the time that it stays up in the atmosphere and what altitude the helicopter maintains, it would still be a huge accomplishment and scientists plan on learning a lot from this single flight.
Ingenuity weighs 4 pounds on Earth. This means it will be weighing around 1.5 pounds on Mars. Other than that, it is powered by solar panels, and after being charged for a day it can stay above the ground for 90 seconds. Ingenuity is capable of attaining altitudes of up to 15 feet and can cover 980 feet along the ground on a single charge. Ingenuity is supposed to roam the Martian skies for 30 Martian days.
Just like all other previous rovers, the Perseverance rover is being sent to search for signs of ancient life on the Red Planet. Only this time around, it has a little companion to make its exploration a little vast if the experiment succeeds.