NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter successfully lands on the surface of Mars

NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter is one step closer to making its first flight on Mars. On Saturday (3), the space agency that the helicopter was successfully dropped onto the planet’s surface by the Perseverance rover, which has essentially served as Ingenuity’s space taxi, recharging station and heater until now.

Since arriving in Mars in February, Nasa’s 1.8-kilogram, $ 80 million helicopter has been attached to the belly of the Perseverance rover. Recently, however, the spacecraft started taking Ingenuity to its destination: a 10 by 10 meter aerodrome, chosen because it is flat and unobstructed, where it will attempt the first motorized and controlled flight of an aircraft on another planet.

As soon as Perseverance arrived at the exact location that NASA wanted in the aviation field, the complicated deployment process began. The day-long event included rotating the helicopter from horizontal to vertical, extending its legs and charging Ingenuity’s six battery cells through Perseverance one last time.

The most stressful moment came, no doubt, on Saturday, when the rover launched Ingenuity from a height of 10 centimeters on the surface of Mars. As we all know now, it was a success. “Mars Helicopter touchdown confirmed! Its 471 million km journey aboard Persevere ended with the final launch of the 10 cm from the rover’s belly to the surface of Mars today. Next milestone? Survive the night, ”wrote NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

not saturday.

While this “surviving the night” comment may sound like a phrase used for dramatic effect, NASA employed it in a literal sense. As explained by Bob Balaram, chief engineer of the Mars Helicopter Project at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Ingenuity has so far been connected to Perseverance, which has allowed it to charge its battery and use the space vehicle’s thermostat-controlled heater to keep its interior at 7 degrees Celsius.

Having a heater is very important on Mars, where temperatures can drop to -90 degrees Celsius. The heater comfortably protects sensitive components, such as batteries and helicopter electronics, from damage such as freezing or cracking, which can be caused by low temperatures.

But that was the life of Ingenuity with Perseverance. Now that he is alone, the helicopter will have to get used to colder temperatures. It will also have to rely on its own ability to generate energy. Before saying goodbye to Perseverance, Ingenuity fully charged its batteries. Now, it will depend on the sun.

Balaram said the Sun’s energy is weaker on Mars, or about half what we would find on Earth on a sunny day. Still, that’s enough for the helicopter’s solar panel to charge its batteries.

“Ingenuity cannot afford to maintain its interior temperature at ‘pleasant’ 7 degrees Celsius – it consumes a lot of the battery’s precious energy,” said Balaram in a status update on NASA’s website on Friday ( two). “Instead, when he wakes up on the surface after falling, he will adjust his thermostat to around -15 degrees Celsius or less. Then he must survive the first night on his own! ”

Balaram said the Ingenuity team would be waiting for a response from the helicopter on Sunday to confirm that it had survived the night and that its solar panel had worked as intended. Until publication, there were no additional updates on how Ingenuity was doing on Sunday, but we hope it is doing well!

In the coming days, the Ingenuity team will check the rover’s temperatures and recharge performance of the batteries. If these checks go well, NASA will move forward with the unblocking of the helicopter’s rotor blades and testing of the engines and sensors.

No saturday

that the first flight attempt by Ingenuity would not be before April 11, with the receipt of data on Earth on April 12. The helicopter will have 30 Martian days, or 31 Earth days, to carry out its test flight campaign.

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