Space mission Mars 2020 – “Ingenuity” in the starting blocks


The first sounds, video recordings and pictures with unprecedented sharpness. The Mars rover “Perseverance”, which landed on the surface of the Red Planet on February 18, has meanwhile provided the earth with completely new impressions from space and has even amazed NASA scientists. At the beginning of April, the small “Ingenuity” helicopter, which started the journey on board the rover, is scheduled to take off on a test flight. It would be the first flight of an aircraft over another planet.

Just a few days after arrival, “Ingenuity” sent an initial status report to the Nasa control center in Pasadena, California. Since then, the six lithium-ion batteries in the helicopter, which weighs around two kilograms, have been charged to keep the electronics warm. During his maneuver he will be exposed to extreme conditions. Because on Mars it is cold down to minus 90 degrees Celsius at night. In addition, the gravitational pull of the planet is lower and the atmosphere is much thinner.

The helicopter's flight zone from the perspective of "Perseverance".  - © what / afp / Nasa / JPL-Caltech

The helicopter’s flight zone from the perspective of “Perseverance”. – © apa / afp / Nasa / JPL-Caltech

After take-off, “Ingenuity” should “climb to a height of about three meters, where it should fly on the spot for about 30 seconds, turn, and then come back down and land,” says NASA engineer Havard Grip, describing the project. The helicopter could then start several flight attempts for around a month.

One of the first images the rover sent to earth.  - © apa / afp / Nasa / JPL-Caltech

One of the first images the rover sent to earth. – © apa / afp / Nasa / JPL-Caltech

Images and sound recordings

“Perseverance” is currently bringing the aircraft to its flat, ten by ten meter space, selected by the researchers, near the landing site, where it then has to be set up for take-off.

The rover, launched in July 2020 from the Cape Canaveral spaceport, landed in a risky maneuver lasting several minutes in a dry lake called “Jezero Crater” that had never been examined on site before. Just a few minutes later, he had sent the first pixelated black and white images of Mars. The video recordings that were then sent showed the last eleven kilometers or so of the “Perseverance” route. You could see how the parachute opened. The microphones would not have sent any useful data from the landing, but later the first sound recordings ever received from the surface of Mars, which resemble a gust of wind.

“Now that you’ve seen Mars, hear it. Grab a pair of headphones and listen to the first sounds that were picked up by one of my microphones,” the rover, affectionately known as “Percy”, had on his rover Twitter-Konto posted.

A high-resolution panorama picture followed later. To do this, a camera attached to a mast had rotated 360 degrees once. From the 142 photos that were taken, a panorama image was then created with such a high resolution that details of only three to five millimeters near the rover and details of two to three meters further away are clearly visible, according to NASA . The picture shows scree, hills and the horizon around the “Jezero Crater”. “Perseverance” is to investigate this lake with a diameter of around 45 kilometers over the next two years. As a result, researchers from the Styrian Joanneum Research were also able to produce an initial 3D reconstruction of the rover’s surroundings.

The first tour

Just two weeks after landing, “Perseverance” had successfully completed its first tour on Mars. The rover covered a distance of 6.5 meters. It took him a good 33 minutes for this. “The six-wheel drive worked perfectly,” reported NASA engineer Anais Zarifian.

Now “Ingenuity” is in the starting blocks. He, too, should help to find traces of earlier microbial life and to research the climate and geology of the red planet.

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Space mission Mars Ingenuity starting blocks


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