The battery-powered NASA helicopter, which hopes to be the first car to fly to another planet, has survived its first test – a frosty night on Mars.
The four-kilogram Ingenuity helicopter was deployed on the surface by NASA’s Perseverance rover, previously attached to the belly of the rover.
The evening temperature in the crater of Jezero can drop to minus 90 degrees Celsius.
This can freeze and crack unprotected electrical components and damage the onboard batteries needed for the flight.
Ingenuity will be the first aircraft to attempt a controlled flight on another planet.
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MiMi Aung, ingenuity project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, said: “This ingenuity was the first time I visited Mars.
“But we now have confirmation that we have the right insulation, the right heaters and enough energy in the battery to survive the cold night, which is a great victory for the team. We are happy to continue to prepare ingenuity for the first flight test.”
The Perseverance rover was ordered to move away from ingenuity shortly after its deployment – so that the solar battery on rotor helicopters could begin to receive sunlight as soon as possible.
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Until the helicopter placed its four legs on the Martian surface, ingenuity remained attached to the rover’s belly, gaining power from Perseverance.
The rover serves as a relay for communication between ingenuity and Earth, and it will use its set of cameras to monitor the flight characteristics of the helicopter on a solar battery from “Van Zyl Overlook”.
The helicopter has no scientific instruments: its only mission, a demonstration of technology, is to conduct flight tests in the thin atmosphere of Mars.
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Within 30 Martian days, or ashes (the Martian day is 24.6 hours), on the surface, ingenuity will complete its tests, and the scientific study of the perseverance of Crater Jezero will go into high gear.
“Our 30-salt test schedule has impressive milestones,” said Teddy Tsanetos, deputy chief operating officer of the Marine Invention helicopter at JPL.
“Whatever the future, we will get all the flight data we can during this period.”
On April 4, “Perseverance” transmitted the first of the images of the helicopter to the surface of Mars.
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In the image taken by the rear left camera to avoid the danger of the rover, the image shows that the blades of the rotor of the helicopter are still on top of each other (configuration used to save space when traveling to Mars), as well as four footrests firmly attached to the surface of Mars .
Over the next two days, ingenuity will gather information on how effective thermoregulation and power systems work now that a small helicopter is standing alone in the environment of Mars.
This information will be used to fine-tune the Ingenuity thermoregulation system to help it survive harsh Martian nights throughout the flight.