If profitable, Ingenuity would be the first helicopter to fly on one other planet, resulting in an “extraterrestrial Wright Brothers second,” mentioned Thomas Zurbuchen, affiliate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.
Now, the mission crew has heard immediately from the helicopter for the primary time — and it is excellent news.
Ingenuity is presently tucked up beneath the rover and hooked up to Perseverance’s stomach. The rover is in regards to the dimension of an SUV, whereas the helicopter solely weighs about 4 kilos.
The helicopter was in a position to cellphone house by way of the rover by sending knowledge again by way of NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which acts as a communications relay between Mars and Earth and has been orbiting the purple planet since 2006.
Ingenuity is snug the place it’s and is not letting go of the rover anytime quickly for a check flight. The helicopter will stay comfortable with the rover for 30 to 60 days.
“There are two big-ticket objects we’re in search of within the knowledge: the state of cost of Ingenuity’s batteries in addition to affirmation the bottom station is working as designed, commanding heaters to show on and off to maintain the helicopter’s electronics inside an anticipated vary,” mentioned Tim Canham, Ingenuity Mars Helicopter operations lead at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in a press release.
“Each seem like working nice. With this optimistic report, we’ll transfer ahead with (Saturday’s) cost of the helicopter’s batteries.”
Ingenuity must energy up and retailer vitality so it may possibly maintain itself heat and preserve different important capabilities in the course of the chilly Martian nights as soon as the rover deposits the helicopter on the purple planet’s floor. Then, Ingenuity can be by itself.
And it might want to stand up to nights the place temperatures can drop as little as destructive 130 levels Fahrenheit. As Elton John famously sings in “Rocket Man,” Mars is, certainly, as chilly as hell.
Sustaining operate and good battery well being can be important if the helicopter is to outlive the frigid Martian local weather earlier than making an attempt any check flights afterward. A complete of 5 check flights are deliberate over a 31-day interval as soon as the rover finds the suitable “helipad,” or good flat spot, to deposit Ingenuity.
So long as Ingenuity is hooked up to Perseverance, the helicopter may give its batteries a lift. The helicopter has six lithium-ion batteries. As soon as it has indifferent from the rover, these batteries can be charged by the helicopter’s photo voltaic panel.
The primary flight of Ingenuity can be brief, solely about 20 seconds of hovering off the bottom. However it will likely be a historic second. Very like the very first Martian rover, Sojourner, Ingenuity is a expertise demonstration — an experiment. Proving that this idea can work might result in the event of rotorcraft that might act as scouts for each rovers and human missions to Mars sooner or later.
If that first flight is profitable, “over 90% of the venture’s objectives may have been achieved,” in keeping with NASA.
Subsequent flights might last more and check out extra of the helicopter’s capabilities. It carries two cameras that may present aerial photographs. Perseverance may even practice its cameras on Ingenuity to seize the sights and sounds, together with video, of those historic flights.
“We’re in uncharted territory, however this crew is used to that,” mentioned MiMi Aung, venture supervisor for the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter at JPL, in a press release. “Nearly each milestone from right here by way of the top of our flight demonstration program can be a primary, and every has to succeed for us to go on to the following. We’ll get pleasure from this excellent news for the second, however then now we have to get again to work.”