NASA forced to ground Ingenuity helicopter on Mars

The NASA Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has spotted a giant dust storm on Mars that has grounded Ingenuity helicopter.

| Updated on: Jan 24 2022, 09:48 IST
A big dust storm was captured by NASA on planet Mars that grounded Ingenuity helicopter. (Pixabay)
A big dust storm was captured by NASA on planet Mars that grounded Ingenuity helicopter. (Pixabay)

NASA weather forecast for Mars has predicted a big dust storm on Mars and the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has actually captured a giant regional dust storm on the Red Planet. NASA in one of its blog posts mentioned that as Mars transitions into autumn, an increase in the amount of dust is observed in the atmosphere there globally. However, this year, a strong regional dust storm appeared on the first day of the new year, which is quite early – even before the dusty season traditionally starts. The dust storm has put a spanner in the NASA schedule on the planet.

The dust storm on Mars has spanned the area formerly known as the river delta called Jezero Crater where the space agency's Perseverance rover is exploring the Martian surface. The space organizations stated that levels of dust remain heightened through winter and it is referred to as the “dusty season. NASA wrote, "In fact, we have never seen a storm of this strength so early in the Mars year before."

The first signs of the approaching dust storm on Martian space were spotted by Perseverance, which observed increased dust lifting within the Jezero crater.

The dust storm has put a hitch in NASA's plans to once again fly its expectation-exceeding Ingenuity helicopter, the part of the Perseverance mission and Flight 19 has been delayed.

Dust plays a major role in Mars' climate as well as for solar-powered surface assets like Ingenuity. This atmospheric dust decreases the amount of sunlight that reaches Ingenuity's solar panels that charges the batteries needed for flight. Furthermore, the dust is heated by sunlight and warms the surrounding atmosphere and hence reduces the already-low-density air in which Ingenuity must fly.

Meanwhile, another dust storm on Mars forced NASA's solar-powered InSight lander to power down into "safe mode" on Jan. 7. In safe mode, a spacecraft suspends all but its essential functions. However, the skies began to clear and InSight, which is recording earthquakes on Mars among other geologic investigations, exited safe mode.

Every year there are some moderately big dust storms on the Martian surface that cover continent-sized areas and last for weeks at a time.

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First Published Date: 24 Jan, 09:46 IST