NASA’s miniature Ingenuity helicopter survived the first night alone on the surface of Mars after getting out of the vehicle due to perseverance on Saturday. In the harsh Martian temperature, the newly deployed rotorcraft passed an important independence test, giving engineers the confidence to conduct a series of warm-up exercises to prepare for the first flight this weekend.
“This is a huge achievement we have been looking forward to, and now we can continue to perform the rest of the mission,” Ingenuity Deputy Operations Director Teddy Tzanetos said in a NASA live broadcast on Monday. “Now we have to rely on ourselves. We are independent spacecraft on Mars on our own.”
The 4-pound solar-powered spacecraft arrived on Mars on February 18th, which is attached to the abdomen of NASA’s Perseverance Rover. The rover dropped Ingenuity’s protective cover last month and began a week-long meticulous deployment process that ended last weekend when Ingenuity’s four landing feet were firmly planted on the surface of Mars for the first time. Soon after, Ingenuity’s 13-megapixel camera took the first ground image.
Perseverance flinched. Starting from the helicopter’s 31-day clock, it conducted five flight tests and became the first aircraft to achieve powered flight in another world. Its first flight is currently scheduled for April 11 (Sunday), and it is confirmed whether the attempt was successfully completed through the Mars-to-Earth data pipeline the next day.
Engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory confirmed that after the helicopter sent the signal back to the Mars base station, the communications hub on the Hengxin, Mars survived the icy night temperature around -130 degrees Fahrenheit on Monday morning, and Ingenuity was spared .
For the first flight test this weekend, Ingenuity will rise nearly 10 feet from the ground and hover in place for about 30 seconds. It rotates while hovering to demonstrate fluid movement, and then begins to gradually descend to land. Engineers hope to receive images of Ingenuity hovering and a large amount of data in flight on the morning of April 12.
Perseverance soon reflected the image backwards after putting “Ingenuity” down its “tarmac” (a small space on the side of its runway-shaped flight zone). Subsequent tests conducted within Ingenuity’s 30-day test window included flying up to 16 feet and sliding forward in the flight area. The helicopter will not perform any scientific missions during its stay on Mars; engineers emphasized that this is only a flight demonstration.
Ingenuity’s dual-rotor system spans four feet and will rotate at 2,400 rpm at the opposite rotational speed to achieve lift in the ultra-thin atmosphere of Mars.
Although the design of the helicopter is slim and light, it must be completely independent of power because it has been separated from the power supply of Perseverance. To this end, there is a solar panel above the propeller of the spacecraft, which can power six lithium-ion batteries in the fuselage the size of a tissue box. The battery box also contains a computer that is about 100 times more powerful than Perseverance. And some small heaters, which can keep themselves warm on Martian night through the severe cold.