Jul 29, 2022

NASA greenlights two new Mars helicopters and lengthens Perseverance’s resume

Posted by in categories: robotics/AI, space travel

NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) have agreed to “significant and advantageous changes” to a major part of the conceptual design for its Perseverance mission, NASA associate administrator Thomas Zurburchen states in the recent announcement.

This car-sized rover is the newest member of NASA’s robotic Mars fleet, and reached the Red Planet in February 2021 through an unprecedented landing. Arguably one of its most important responsibilities is the Mars Sample Return campaign. Perseverance’s six wheels leave grooves on the planet’s regolith as it works towards that goal, traversing Mars’ Jezero Crater to gather the telltale sedimentary proof that water — and possibly life — once existed there.

In October, the space agencies will dive into the details of their redesign: rather than having Perseverance leave caches of its pebble collection on Mars’ surface for another yet-to-be-built land-based spacecraft to pick up, the existing Mars rover will be the one to carry the precious parcels to their launch site. In addition, Perseverance’s high-flying robotic companion, the Ingenuity helicopter, has inspired the design of two future rotorcraft that would swerve over the Martian terrain to pick up other samples. This duo would be part of an existing concept, NASA’s Sample Retrieval Lander.

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