NASA announced that the Martian helicopter Ingenuity, which was successfully dropped off on the surface of the Red Planet from the Perseverance rover, will soon make its first flight. There is a week left before its first flight.
NASA backed up the cheerful news with a picture of Ingenuity on the surface of the Red Planet. The helicopter was delivered to Mars while being attached to the bottom of the Perseverance rover.
The $85-million helicopter itself is a tiny structure that weighs 1.8 kg. It is solar-powered and has a battery to power the heater during harsh Martian nights.
The temperature of the planet's surface drops to a negative 90°C in the dark. It can be dangerous for the helicopter's batteries, which were 100% charged before being it was unloaded from the rover. Ingenuity is equipped with a battery with a capacity of 35-40 Wh, and until recently, it was connected to the Perseverance nuclear system. From now on, the helicopter must rely only on itself.
As noted by the chief engineer for Mars Helicopter Project at Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Bob Balaram, Ingenuity's battery is also used to power the vital heater on cold nights, which maintains an internal temperature of about 7°C during harsh cold Martian nights. This helps to protect the drone's key components and sensitive electronic devices from damage at very low temperatures.
Ingenuity is expected to make its first flight on April 11. After that, the data from this test will reach Earth on April 12. The drone will be the first helicopter to be sent off Earth. It is designed to test the technology of future flying vehicles on Mars and other planets.
If the first flight is successful, Ingenuity will make a series of longer flights over Jezero Crater, where Perseverance landed on February 18, 2021.