Ingenuity Mars Helicopter – UPSC Prelims

NASA’s Mars Helicopter Ingenuity
  • Ingenuity is the first helicopter to fly on Mars.
  • NASA’s rover called Perseverance carried it to the Red Planet.
  • Purpose: The helicopter’s main task is to carry out a technology demonstration to test the first powered flight on Mars. Further, it also aims to collect samples from the locations on Mars where the rover cannot reach.
  • Features: NASA’s Mars Helicopter Ingenuity is able to fly using counter-rotating blades that spin at about 2,400 rpm. It also has a wireless communication system and is equipped with computers, navigation sensors, and two cameras. Moreover, it is also solar-powered and is able to charge on its own.
Why it was an engineering challenge?
  • The atmosphere on Mars is 1% in density compared to the atmosphere on Earth. Thus, to fly on Mars, helicopter blades need to rotate 8 times as fast as a passenger helicopter to fly on Earth.
  • A helicopter flying a few meters from the surface on Mars requires the same amount of energy, as it requires to fly 2-3 times the height of Mt Everest on earth.
  • A helicopter requires to have its own energy source from solar panels.
  • Also, Ingenuity will face very cold Martian nights that can be brutal on batteries and the onboard computer.
Perseverance Rover:
  • Perseverance is a car-sized Mars rover designed to explore the crater Jezero on Mars as part of NASA’s Mars 2020 mission.
  • Launched in: The rover was launched in July,2020. It landed at the Jezero Crater of Mars in February.2021.
  • Purpose:
    • The rover is designed to better understand the geology of Mars and seek signs of ancient life.
    • It will also collect and store a set of rock and soil samples that could be returned to Earth in the future.
    • Further, it will also test new technology to benefit future robotic and human exploration of Mars.
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