NASA’s Ingenuity mini-helicopter survived its first night alone on the icy surface of Mars, the US space agency said, hailing it as “a major milestone” for the small craft as it prepares for its maiden flight.
The ultralight aircraft was dropped to the surface on Saturday after detaching from the belly of the Perseverance rover, which landed on the Red Planet on February 18.
Detached from perseverance, Ingenuity has had to rely on its own solar-powered battery to run a vital radiator to protect its unshielded electrical components from freezing and cracking during the bitter Mars night, where temperatures can dip into the cold. at minus 130 degrees.
Passing through the frigid Martian night was “a milestone for the small rotorcraft,” NASA said in a statement Monday.
“This is the first time that Ingenuity has been alone on the surface of Mars,” said MiMi Aung, Ingenuity project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
“But now we have confirmation that we have the right insulation, the right heaters and enough power in its battery to survive the cold night, which is a big win for the team. We are excited to continue preparing Ingenuity for its first flight test. “
Over the next few days, Ingenuity will undergo tests of its rotor blades and motors.
If all goes well, Ingenuity is expected to make its first flight attempt no earlier than the evening of April 11, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory said.
It will be the first aircraft to attempt motorized, controlled flight on another planet.