NASA’s Ingenuity mini helicopter has survived its first night alone on the icy surface of Mars, the US space agency said. hailing it as “an important milestone” for the little craft as it prepares for its first flight.
The microlight aircraft was launched to the surface on Saturday after taking off from the belly of the Perseverance rover, which landed on the Red Planet on February 18.
Separated from perseverance, Ingenuity had to rely on its own solar-powered battery to run a vital heater to protect its unshielded electrical components from freezing and cracking during the bitter Martian night, where temperatures can drop to minus 130 degrees. .
Getting through the frigid Martian night was “an important milestone for the little helicopter,” 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 proper insulation, the proper heaters, and enough battery power to survive the cold night, which is a huge victory for the team. We are excited to continue preparing Ingenuity for its first test of flight.”
Over the next few days, Ingenuity will undergo testing of its rotor blades and motors.
If all goes well, Ingenuity is expected to make its first flight attempt no earlier than the night of April 11, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory said.
It will be the first aircraft to attempt controlled, powered flight on another planet.