Science

Ingenuity helicopter survived its first night on Mars without Perseverance

Ingenuity spent its first night on Mars without being attached to the Perseverance rover. NASA confirmed that the small helicopter survived. A new symbolic step is taken, which brings even closer to the first attempt at theft.

Ingenuity is ” safe and sound on the surface of Mars “. On April 5, 2021, NASA confirmed that the small Martian helicopter, deposited a day earlier on the ground of the red planet by Perseverance, was still functioning after its first night spent alone on Mars, without the help of the rover. For the space agency, this is a ” major step For the little robot, which weighs just under 2 kilograms.

During Martian nights, the machines have to endure harsh conditions, with a surface temperature of up to -90 ° C in the Jezero crater (the landing site of the Mars 2020 mission). As the Jet Propulsion Laboratory reminds us in a press release, such cold risks being harmful for the components and the batteries on board the robots. Enough energy is needed for the radiator to be able to keep them at a warmer temperature.

Ingenuity photographed by Perseverance on April 4, 2021. // NASA / JPL-Caltech (cropped photo)

For the first time, the helicopter is alone on Mars. Previously, he was still tied to the Perseverance rover, strapped under his belly. He could thus benefit from his help to charge his battery. NASA had to ensure, after the release of Ingenuity, that it would be sufficiently autonomous to survive without Perseverance. Ingenuity’s first night alone confirmed that its components are well insulated, that its radiators are efficient, and that its battery can have enough power to withstand low temperatures.

Lightweight, but sturdy

The design of Ingenuity was a real challenge for scientists. You had to both imagine a small robot, able to fit on the rover, and light enough to fly in the thin atmosphere of Mars, but strong enough to withstand the extreme conditions on the planet. Ingenuity draws its energy from the sun’s rays, through the solar panel installed above its blades. This is why Perseverance quickly moved away from him after having deposited him on Mars, so that Ingenuity does not remain in his shadow.

During the next few days, Perseverance will continue to communicate with Ingenuity, to receive information on its performance. On April 7, NASA plans to undo the system that still locks the helicopter’s blades together. Some tests on the blades will follow.

Ingenuity’s first attempt at theft could take place on April 11 at the earliest. Perseverance must attend from a distance of 100 meters, which allows him to both immortalize the event and stay safe in case of concern. The Ingenuity mission lasts a total of 30 sols (the name of the Martian day), during which up to 5 flight tests can be considered. Each attempt will be decided based on the results of the previous one.

All about the planet Mars

Photo credit of the one:
Flickr / CC / Stuart Rankin (cropped photo)

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