The ‘Ingenuity’ helicopter is a small helicopter sent by NASA to Mars along with the ‘Perseverance’ rover. Though its main purpose was to just test the idea of ‘helicopter working on Mars’, unexpectedly it performed so well in all areas that NASA considers replacing rovers with helicopters in the next Mars missions.
NASA Mars Mission For Returning Samples
NASA and ESA, the European space agency are working on a plan to bring the first samples of Mars rock that the Perseverance Rover is collecting right now, back to earth for detailed study. Their plan includes two modules.
The first module is in the form of one rover and one ascending vehicle. This will be built by ESA and will touch down on Martian Surface, collect the samples, and ascend to the upper atmosphere where the second module, built by NASA, will bring the sample back to earth.
Introduction Of Helicopters In Plan
In the updated plan to return Mars samples to Earth, the @NASAPersevere rover will bring samples to a lander, where a robotic arm provided by @ESA will load them into an ascent vehicle. Two Ingenuity-class helicopters will act as back-ups. Details: https://t.co/1rQJ8H7D1L pic.twitter.com/HMTd7T5aWC— NASA Mars (@NASAMars) July 27, 2022
So what NASA wants is to replace the collector rover of the first module with two Ingenuity-based helicopters. NASA is confident of such a plan because the Ingenuity helicopter significantly outperformed all expectations, completing 29 flights over a year.
Difference Between Ingenuity And New Helicopters
The new helicopters will be similar to Ingenuity in terms of mass and size with two key differences. One landing legs and mobility wheels and the second the grabbing arms to collect the samples.