Due to dust, the Mars helicopter Ingenuity will be immobilized for a few weeks
The Martian Helicopter NASA Ingenuity will take a break in the coming weeks, as announced by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) last Thursday, July 14. This immobilization is mainly due to winter and dust season on Mars. During this period, there is less light from the Sun and it becomes difficult to recharge the batteries of the device.
When it comes to seasons, Mars is quite similar to Earth. Its axis of rotation is slightly inclined with respect to the orbital plane. The northern hemisphere and the southern hemisphere of the planet thus receive a different amount of light during the year and the seasons are always different. In the coming weeks, winter will set in in the area where Ingenuity is located, and there will be more dust in the atmosphere.
The JPL team expects the helicopter to be able take flight around the beginning of August. According to NASA, dust levels should begin to drop around the end of July.
A problem for many rovers
The Martian winter is always harsh for Earth-based rovers and devices. Since May 18, the chinese rover zhurong for example went into hibernation for the same reason as Ingenuity. In the past, NASA also had problems with the rover Opportunity whose lifespan has been threatened by harsh winter conditions. In the end, it was a big dust storm that got the better of the little rover.
A device that broke records
The Ingenuity helicopter launched in the summer of 2020, arriving in Mars’ Jezero Crater in February 2018. It was attached to the Perseverance rover, which deployed it a few weeks after landing.
Ingenuity’s first flight was on April 19, 2021, and that flight lasted 39 seconds. To date, the helicopter has managed to perform 29 flights and flew for a total duration of 55 minutes. Initially, NASA planned to fly it 5 times, but now the space agency plans to keep it in service until at least September.
Let’s hope that Ingenuity will be able to fly again when the amount of dust in the Martian atmosphere allows it.