The ultralight helicopter Ingenuity, which arrived on Mars in February coupled with the Perseverance robot, resisted the first night alone on the planet, the US space agency (NASA) said, emphasizing that it was a “big step” before the first flight.
The ultra-light helicopter, which looks like a large drone, detached itself from Perseverance, which landed on Mars on February 18.
Until now, Ingenuity has fed on the energy of the Perseverance robot, but at this point it depends on its own solar panels to survive, warming up during the freezing nights of Mars, when the temperature can drop to -90 ° Celsius.
Surviving the freezing night on Mars was “an important milestone” for the ultra-light helicopter, NASA said in a statement today.
“This is the first time that Ingenuity is alone on the surface of Mars,” added MiMi Aung, responsible for the Ingenuity project at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), NASA’s laboratory.
“Now we have confirmation that it was the right insulation, the right heaters and that there was enough battery power to survive the cold nights, which is a huge success for the team. We are pleased to continue to prepare Ingenuity for its first test. flight, “said MiMi Aung.
In the coming days, Ingenuity will undergo engine and sensor tests.
If all goes well, the ultralight helicopter should do its first flight test, which will only happen on Sunday night.
If the experiment is successful, it will be a real feat, because the Martian air has a density equivalent to only 1% of the Earth’s atmosphere.
It will be the first flight of a motor vehicle on another planet. Comprising four feet, a body and two overlapping propellers, the Ingenuity weighs just 1.8 kilograms and measures 1.2 meters from one end to the other of its blades.
NASA revealed that a small piece of fabric from the Wright brothers’ aircraft, which took off more than a century ago in North Carolina, in the United States, was placed in Ingenuity as a tribute.
Perseverance will be placed at an observation point where you can use your cameras to capture photos of the entire Ingenuity flight process.
Up to five flights of gradual difficulty are planned by the American space agency over the course of a month.
This type of device may prove crucial, in the future, for the exploration of planets, as it is able to go to places where robots cannot access, such as canyons.
NASA is also working on another flying device project under the Dragonfly mission (Dragonfly, in Portuguese), which in 2026 will send a drone to Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, where it will arrive in 2034.
The first flight experiments on other planets were made with non-motorized devices, recalled NASA, by sending weather balloons to Venus, under the Vega program, in collaboration with the USSR and other countries, such as France.
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