Science

NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter survives its first night alone on Mars

Ingenuity? This is this ultralight helicopter similar to a large drone that broke off on Saturday March 3, 2021 from the Perseverance rover, which landed on Mars on February 18, 2021. Up until then, Ingenuity had been feeding off the rover’s energy , but now depends on its own solar panels to be able to survive by warming up during the frigid Martian nights when the temperature can drop to -90 ° Celsius.

Having survived the freezing Martian night was “a major step” for the mini-helicopter, NASA said in a statement Monday. “This is the first time that Ingenuity has been alone on the surface of Mars”, added MiMi Aung, head of the Ingenuity project at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), NASA’s laboratory.

Ingenuity: first powered flight over Mars (AFP – Gal ROMA)

Martian air has a density equivalent to only 1% of that of the Earth’s atmosphere

“We now have confirmation that it was the right insulation, the right heaters, and that it has enough energy in its batteries to survive the cold nights, which is a great success for the team. continue to prepare Ingenuity for its first test flight “, she continued. Over the next few days, Ingenuity will undergo engine and sensor tests. If all goes well, the mini-helicopter should complete its first test flight, which will not take place until the evening of April 11, according to JPL. If the experiment is successful, it will be a real feat, because the Martian air is of a density equivalent to only 1% of that of the Earth’s atmosphere.

Image released by NASA on April 4, 2021 of the Ingenuity mini-helicopter, under the Perseverance rover, on Mars (NASA / JPL-CALTECH / AFP - Handout)

Image released by NASA on April 4, 2021 of the Ingenuity mini-helicopter, under the Perseverance rover, on Mars (NASA / JPL-CALTECH / AFP – Handout)

This will be the first flight of a motorized vehicle on another planet. Composed of four feet, a body and two superimposed propellers, Ingenuity weighs only 1.8 kg and measures 1.2 m from one end of its blades to the other. NASA has revealed that a small piece of fabric from the Wright brothers’ aircraft that took off more than a century ago in North Carolina, United States, had been placed, as a tribute, on Ingenuity, and was therefore currently found on Mars.

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