Flight delays are common on Earth but it has already begun on Mars. The red planet is smaller than Earth. It also has a less dense atmosphere compared to that on Earth. However, it still has to face the seasonal changes that are accompanied by strong winds and dust storms. One such storm led to postponement of the 19th flight of Ingenuity on Mars. As a result, the flight of January 5 will now take place on January 23. NASA has orbiters circling the planet. There are also a range of instruments installed on the Perseverance rover and InSight lander.

These help the scientists to become more knowledgeable about the weather on Mars. Here also, the uncertainty factor experienced on Earth remains. Ingenuity has completed 18 flights and braved seasonal changes on Mars during spring and summer, but the dust storm affected the 19th flight. Autumn on the red planet will begin on February 24. Here, the density of air keeps changing based on the season. This one factor defines the favorable conditions for flight on Mars. Wind speed is another factor.

Autumn is the 'dusty season' on Mars

The amount of dust that goes up in the atmosphere increases during autumn and remains that way through winter. Dust is a major threat to Mars missions. In 2019, a dust storm drained the batteries and prevented their recharging on Opportunity’s rover.

That ended a 15-year journey of the rover. This is because dust in the atmosphere acts as a shield and can reduce the amount of sunlight that reaches the solar panels. That can have serious repercussions on missions like Ingenuity. The helicopter team was surprised when a strong dust storm started in the Jezero Crater region.

That was on the first day of 2022 and the dusty season had yet to take off. NASA has created history on Mars with Ingenuity helicopter.

Dust storm on Mars has cleared, Ingenuity is preparing for flight

Perseverance first spotted the January storm. From its orbit, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter also made a note of the regional dust storm.

It was moving from the southern hemisphere to the northern hemisphere. The storm has already cleared and Ingenuity is getting ready for flight. The experience helped the helicopter's team to tackle the situation when the dusty season arrived. Ingenuity is in the role of an aerial scout for Perseverance as it searches for telltale evidence of ancient life on the red planet. NASA has positioned its robots on Mars. Curiosity has been there since 2012 exploring the mountainous terrain. InSight is drilling into its depths to know what lies below ground level. Ingenuity is there to conduct aerial survey and extend necessary support. A combination of Artificial Intelligence, robotics and renewable energy is making things happen millions of miles away.

Ingenuity is going places on Mars.

Weather forecasting is important for planning flights on Mars

Rough weather conditions prevented Ingenuity to takeoff on its 19th flight on Mars. This was because of a dust storm that struck the area where NASA's Perseverance Rover is operating. This rover had transported Ingenuity to the red planet. When a dust storm strikes, the air prevents sunlight to reach the solar panels on Ingenuity. NASA scientists explain: “The presence of this storm came quite early – even before the dusty season traditionally starts! In fact, we have never seen a storm of this strength so early in the Mars year before." Obviously, weather forecasting is important for flight planning on Mars. The helicopter conducted its first flight in April last year.