HOLD After a calm interval, NASA aims to carefully reactivate the Mars helicopter.

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HOLD After a calm interval, NASA aims to carefully reactivate the Mars helicopter.

Because the sun interferes with communications to Mars, the Mars helicopter Ingenuity is on its own for the next two weeks.

NASA plans to check in with the chopper and the Mars rover Perseverance around Oct. 14. Previous rovers have experienced so-called solar conjunction communication outages, but no little aircraft has ever been alone on the planet for so long without communicating with Earth.

Jaakko Karras, Ingenuity deputy operations head, told Nokia News, “Ingenuity is unique, something never explored before.”

“It has a wide range of components and construction methods that aren’t found on Mars. “We just don’t know what will happen during the conjunction, but we’re optimistic,” Karras said.

Dust storms, which are critical for battery recharging, could cover Ingenuity’s solar panels during the conjunction, according to Karras. Alternatively, fine Martian dust could infiltrate delicate technology.

Extreme temperature variations – as low as -130 F – might also stress components past their breaking thresholds, according to Karras.

The 4-pound aircraft was designed to fly five times, yet it has already completed 13 sorties. Following the helicopter’s initial success, NASA decided to use it as a scout for the Perseverance rover rather than a simple technical demonstration.

Ingenuity’s Flight 14, a quick test flight to determine how the helicopter would operate in the new Martian summer at the aircraft’s location in Jezero Crater, had been planned by NASA.

The test was necessary because the already-thin Martian air is slightly less dense due to the summer’s rising temperatures.

NASA tested Ingenuity’s dual rotors to determine if they could spin faster to accommodate the thinner air. According to the space agency, they performed admirably.

Ingenuity was scheduled to fly a short hop aircraft on Sept. 18 to further evaluate its function in the summer environment. However, the helicopter immediately aborted the flight.

According to Karras, the abort was caused by a fault with the mechanisms that help control the direction and position of the rotors, also known as a swashplate and servos.

The problem was not repeated in two subsequent spin tests of the rotors, therefore NASA chose to postpone Flight 14 until after the solar conjunction, according to the agency.

NASA officials are concerned that the steering controls on the Ingenuity spacecraft are wearing out,… Article Summary from Nokia News

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