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The image below is cropped from the high resolution version of NASA's Mars Helicopter and Perseverance Rover PIA23824 and shows the helicopter in it's stowed position on the underside of the rover next to one of the rover's wheels.

The caption says:

The Mars Helicopter, visible in lower center of the image, was attached to the belly of NASA's Perseverance rover at Kennedy Space Center on April 6, 2020. The helicopter will be deployed onto the Martian surface about two-and-a-half months after Perseverance lands.

For more information about the mission, go to https://mars.nasa.gov/mars2020/.

To me this suggests the following interrelated questions:

  1. For about "about two-and-a-half months" the helicopter will be in danger of being hit by a passing rock as curiosity drives around the martian terrain. Will minimizing this risk require that the Perseverance rover drive more slowly, observe terrain more carefully, and for its route to be vetted by ground crews more thoroughly than after the helicopter is deployed?
  2. What is the vertical clearance for the helicopter when the rover is on a flat surface? From the photo it looks to be zero or even negative!

The Mars Helicopter, visible in lower center of the image, was attached to the belly of NASA's Perseverance rover at Kennedy Space Center on April 6, 2020.

click for full size or visit the NASA page linked above

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The helicopter and the deployment assembly are protected by a "debris shield" which is only dropped shortly before helicopter deployment. This shield is formed out of carbon fiber and fully encompasses the entire helicopter and deployment assembly. The upper lip of this bucket- or violin-case like shield is pressed against the bottom panel of Perseverance's body. In this video, you can see a the full deployment process of the helicopter and here are some screenshots from the video:

shield up shield down


From NASA JPL PIA24448:

The debris shield, a protective covering on the bottom of NASA's Perseverance rover, was released on March 21, 2021, the 30th Martian day, or sol, of the mission. The debris shield protects the agency's Ingenuity helicopter during landing; releasing it allows the helicopter to rotate down out of the rover's belly. This image was taken by the WATSON (Wide Angle Topographic Sensor for Operations and eNgineering) camera on the SHERLOC (Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman and Luminescence for Organics and Chemicals) instrument, located at the end of the rover's long robotic arm.

NASA JPL PIA24448 The debris shield, a protective covering on the bottom of NASA's Perseverance rover, was released on March 21, 2021

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  • $\begingroup$ Also, is there any information on driving more carefully because of the reduced clearance? $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Apr 11 '20 at 16:23
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the edit! $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Apr 11 '20 at 23:56
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No, Perseverance will not drive for months with the helicopter stowed on its underside.

From the Surface Phase of the Mars 2020 Perseverance Launch Press Kit I got the information below.

The first 30 sols after landing will be a commissioning phase within which the rover will perform a short drive test.

After that Perseverance will need to find a flat area where the rover will deploy the helicopter and drive a safe distance away.

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