According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the Ingenuity helicopter, partner and traveling companion of the agency’s Perseverance rover, checked in with an excellent report and working efficiently as expected. The associate administrator of the agency’s Science Mission Directorate said that in case of success, Ingenuity would be the first helicopter to fly on another planet of the universe, leading to an extraterrestrial moment of Wright Brothers.
On Thursday, the rover landed safely on Mars’s surface after launching from Earth on 30th July. Perseverance previously sent back a remarkable set of images to demonstrate that she’s safe and equipped to go through a checkout phase before initiating her journey across the Mars surface. Now, the team of the mission heard straight from the helicopter for the first time – and it’s good news. Ingenuity currently tucked up under the rover and connected to the belly of Perseverance.
The size of the rover is almost equal to an SUV, whereas the weight of the helicopter is around four pounds. The helicopter was able to call home through the rover by sending information back through the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter of NASA, which acts as a communications relay between Earth and Mars. Moreover, it has been orbiting the red planet since 2006. Ingenuity will remain snug with the rover for thirty to sixty days.
When will the team attempt flight?
Perseverance Mars Rover tweets that Ingenuity is working properly as per expectations. After charging and setting it down, it will rely completely on its solar panels. If it combats the brutally cold Martian nights, the team will attempt flight.
Ingenuity, the Mars Helicopter I carry, is working as expected. I’m currently charging it, but once I set it down, it’ll rely solely on its solar panels. If it survives the brutally cold Martian nights, the team will attempt flight. https://t.co/8pksN06ZwP #CountdownToMars pic.twitter.com/80kEoww0QU
— NASA’s Perseverance Mars Rover (@NASAPersevere) February 20, 2021
Ingenuity Mars Helicopter operations head at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Tim Canham, states that there are two big-ticket items that they are looking for in the statistics: the state of charge of batteries of Ingenuity in addition to the confirmation the base station is operating as per its design, strong heaters to shut down and on to keep the electronics of the helicopter within an expected range.
The statement also reads that both appear to be working properly. With this positive report, the team will move forward with Saturday’s charge of the batteries. Ingenuity requires power up and save energy so it can keep itself warm and maintain other necessary functions during the cold Martian nights once the rover deposits the helicopter on the red surface of the planet.
Minimum Temperature on Mars
Afterward, it will need to survive nights where temperatures can drop below minus 130 degrees Fahrenheit. As Elton John superbly signs in Rocket Man, Mars is as cold as hell. Maintaining good battery health and function will be critical if the helicopter is to survive the cold Martian climate before trying any test flights later on. Overall five test flights planned over a thirty-one-day duration once the rover finds the right helipad, or proper flat area, to deposit Ingenuity.