NASA to Send Two More Helicopters on Mission to Mars | Science

NASA, the US space agency, is due to launch two more mini-helicopters to Mars in a mission that aims to return scientific samples of Martian soil to Earth.

In 2021, the Ingenuity mini-helicopter made the historic first powered and controlled flight on the red planet, as part of an agency strategy just to assess the flight conditions on the planet.

Since then, Ingenuity has made about 30 experimental flights. Now, NASA and ESA, the European space agency, plan to build and launch at the end of this decade two similar equipment that will transport samples of rocks and soil from Mars to our planet.

If all goes as planned, up to 30 samples would be collected in 2031 and arrive on Earth in 2033.

The program Mars Sample Return (Mars Sample Return Program) is in the final stages of its design project, after an initial launch strategy review.

Earlier, NASA had intended to take a new robot to Mars that would be built by ESA and that would transport the scientific materials collected by the ESA. Perseverance (robot launched together with Ingenuity and which searches for traces of life on the planet) to a rocket manufactured by the Americans.

Perseverance, the robot that NASA sent to Mars. — Photo: NASA

Now, the mission intends to make the Perseverance move on your own to the lander where this rocket will be parked.

However, if the robot fails in this task, this is where the new helicopters come into play: the two rigs being built would carry the Perseverance samples.

According to the Associated Press, NASA program director Jeff Gramling, each helicopter is being designed to transport one sample tube of the robot at a time, making several round trips.

“We’re confident that we can count on Perseverance to bring the samples back and we’ve added the helicopters as a sort of plan B,” Gramling said.

The agencies hope this new strategy will reduce the complexity of future missions to Mars and increase the likelihood of success for the space program.

“There are some significant and beneficial changes to the plan, which can be directly attributed to the recent successes of Perseverance in Jezero. [uma cratera do planeta que já foi um lago há bilhões de anos] and the incredible performance of our helicopter on Mars,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s director of science missions.

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