In the Jezero crater, the temperature during the night can reach minus 90 degrees Celsius, which can freeze and even break unprotected electrical components and damage batteries needed for the flight.
A helicopter survival, about 1.8 kg and which was attached to the belly of the Perseverance rover on April 3, is an important milestone. In the coming days, Ingenuity will be the first aircraft to attempt a motorized and controlled flight on another planet.
“This is the first time that Ingenuity is on its own on the surface of Mars,” said MiMi Aung, project manager for Ingenuity at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. “But now we have confirmation that we have the right insulation, the right heaters and enough battery power to survive the cold night, which is a big win for the team. We are excited to continue to prepare Ingenuity for its first flight test ”.
The mission’s main challenge was to design a spacecraft small enough to fit on the rover, light enough to fly in the thin atmosphere of Mars, but tough enough to withstand the cold Martian.
To ensure that the solar panel on top of the helicopter’s rotors could begin to receive sunlight as quickly as possible, Perseverance was instructed to move away from Ingenuity shortly after implanting it.
Until it landed on the surface of Mars, Ingenuity remained attached to the belly of the rover, receiving energy from Perseverance, which landed in the Jezero crater on February 18. The rover serves as a communication relay between Ingenuity and Earth, and will use its set of cameras to observe the flight characteristics of the “Van Zyl Overlook” solar powered helicopter.
Ingenuity’s only mission is to conduct flight tests in the thin atmosphere of Mars. The helicopter does not carry scientific instruments. Ingenuity will complete its tests within 30 Martian days. One day on Mars is equivalent to 24.6 hours of Earth.
“Our 30-day Martian test schedule is anticipated with exciting milestones,” said Teddy Tzanetos, deputy head of operations for the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “Whatever the future holds, we will acquire all the flight data we can within that period.”
The Month of Ingenuity
On April 4, Perseverance downlinked the first images of the helicopter on the surface of Mars. Taken by the spacecraft’s left rear camera to avoid scratches, the image shows the helicopter’s rotor blades still lined up on top of each other (a configuration used to save space during the trip to Mars) and its four “legs” firmly planted on the surface from Mars.
In the next two days, Ingenuity will collect information about the performance of the energy and thermal control systems, now that the small helicopter is alone in the Mars environment. This information will be used to adjust Ingenuity’s thermal control system to help you survive the harsh nights of Mars for the duration of the flight experience.