IHe will henceforth be responsible for assisting the rover in its main mission, searching for ancient life on Mars, for example by going to explore places of scientific interest, which cannot be reached with four wheels, or by determining the safest path. “Innovation will move from a technology demonstration mission, where we demonstrate the helicopter’s technical capabilities, to an operations demonstration mission, where we collect information about the helicopter’s ability to provide operational support. [à Perseverance]Lori Glaze, NASA’s director of planetary studies, told a news conference. In 30 days, we will establish our place. ”
The US space agency does not rule out extending the experiment further after that. But “it wasn’t actually designed for a long task,” said Bob Ballaram, chief engineer of the machine, noting in particular the effect of repeated cycles of freezing and thawing. The ingenuity also should not be destroyed, while its journeys would be more and more risky.
Starting with scheduled Friday, the fourth and longest so far.
The helicopter’s mission was initially scheduled to end after 30 days, as NASA then expected the spacecraft to move quickly and far to reach an area of interest to take samples of rocks. Creativity at the time could not keep pace, as it had to recharge the solar panels between each trip. But the researchers finally decided otherwise: “We really want to spend a significant amount of time where we are,” said Ken Farley, a scientist of persistence.
They believe that in the area they will find “rocks that are probably the oldest material found on the floor of the crater,” Jizero, where perseverance landed last February, in addition to “the rocks deposited in the middle of the lake that once filled and clarified this hole.
He added, “This is the kind of environment that we think is more suitable for life by living things that may have been present on Mars billions of years ago.”
The first sample should be taken in July. For the first time, Perseverance will collect samples that must be returned to Earth on a subsequent mission, within several years.