July 24, 2020
This summer NASA is expected to launch its Perseverance rover on the Mars 2020 mission.
The rover’s mission includes drilling and preparing rock core samples to be sent back to Earth, while also searching for evidence of ancient habitable environments where microbial life could have existed in the past. However, it won’t be alone. Unlike those before it, this Mars rover will have a companion - a helicopter, named Ingenuity!
Ingenuity is attached to the Perseverance rover and will be the first aircraft to fly on another planet.
Its purpose is twofold. It will be investigating hard to reach places, like cliffs, caves and deep craters, while providing Perseverance with overhead pictures, helping to plan out the best route for the rover.
Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) is playing a crucial part in getting Ingenuity airborne.
SNC developed a device that will be used to assist in the deployment of the helicopter once the rover arrives on Mars. SNC’s gearmotor powers the deployment mechanism that releases the helicopter from the belly of the rover.
Perseverance and Ingenuity’s final destination is the Jezero Crater.
The 28 mile wide Jezero Crater was once home to a river delta and has landforms dating as far back as 3.6 billion years. Scientists believe the crater could have preserved organic molecules that lived in the water billions of years ago.
Once the rover arrives, SNC’s gearmotor will be used to help deploy the helicopter allowing it to begin its mission goal of up to five flights of a few hundred meters over a 30 day period.
Because Ingenuity is a technology demonstration mission, its success or failure is not tied to the rover.
Perseverance is expected to land on the red planet February of next year.