NASA’s Ingenuity mini-helicopter survived the first night alone on the frosty surface of Mars, US agency called it “a major milestone”.
The mini helicopter’s survival on the frigid surface of Mars is a milestone for the tiny craft as it prepares for its first flight. The ultra-light aircraft was dropped on the surface on Saturday after detaching from the belly of the Perseverance rover, which touched down on the Red Planet on Feb 18.
Ingenuity had to rely on its own solar-powered battery after detaching from the Perseverance, to run a vital heater to protect its vulnerable electrical components from freezing and cracking during the bitter Martian night, when temperatures can plunge as low as minus 90 degrees Celsius.
NASA said in a statement on Monday that making it through the frigid Martian night was “a major milestone for the small rotorcraft”.
“This is the first time that Ingenuity has been on its own on the surface of Mars,” said MiMi Aung, Ingenuity project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
“But we now have confirmation that we have the right insulation, the right heaters, and enough energy in its battery to survive the cold night, which is a big win for the team. We’re excited to continue to prepare Ingenuity for its first flight test.” He added that ingenuity will undergo tests over the coming days, of its rotor blades and motors.
Moreover, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory said that if all goes well, the ingenuity is expected to make its first flight attempt no earlier than the evening of 11th April. It will become the first aircraft to attempt powered, controlled flight on another planet.
To pay tribute to the milestone, ingenuity carries a small piece of cloth that covered one of the wings of the Wright brothers’ first aircraft which achieved the first powered flight on Earth at Kitty Hawk in 1903.