Washington, April 6 2021: Ingenuity mini-helicopter survived its first night on Mars according to NASA.
The US space agency hailed it a s major milestone for the craft as it gears for its first flight.The Ingenuity landed detached from the Perseverance rover in February this year.
It had to rely on its own solar-powered battery to run a vital heater to protect its electrical components from freezing and cracking during the bitter Martian night.
“This is the first time that Ingenuity has been on its own on the surface of Mars,” said MiMi Aung, Ingenuity project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. She added they now know they have hit the right combination for the energy formula.
In the coming days, Ingenuity will undergo tests of its rotor blades and motors. If all goes well, Ingenuity is expected to make its first flight attempt soon. It will be the first aircraft to attempt powered, controlled flight on another planet.
Ingenuity is carrying a small piece of cloth that covered one of the wings of the Wright brothers’ first aircraft which achieved the first powered flight on Earth at Kitty Hawk in 1903, to pay tribute to the milestone. The flight will also coincide with the 60th anniversary of the first human space flight, by Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin on April 12, 1961.
Flying in an atmosphere that is one percent the density of earth is going to make Ingenuity’s lift off harder but will hopefully be countered by the lesser gravity.
Ingenuity will be taking high-resolution photography. A series of flights are planned over its mission lasting 30 Martian sols or 31 Earth days to gather data.
The Ingenuity cost NASA around $85 million to develop and is considered a proof of concept that could revolutionize space exploration. Future aircraft could cover ground much quicker than rovers, and explore more rugged terrain.
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