It is expected to make its first flight attempt no earlier than April 11, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory tweeted.
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NASA’s Ingenuity mini-helicopter has been dropped onto the surface of Mars in preparation for its maiden flight, the US space agency said.
The ultralight aircraft had been attached to the belly of the Perseverance rover, which landed on the Red Planet on February 18.
A photo accompanying the tweet showed that Perseverance had moved away from the helicopter and its “airfield” after falling to the surface.
Ingenuity was feeding off the Perseverance’s power system, but will now have to use its own battery to run a vital radiator to protect its unshielded electrical components from freezing and cracking during the bitter Mars night.
“This heater keeps the interior at around 45 degrees F (7 degrees Celsius) through the freezing cold of a Martian night, where temperatures can drop to as low as -130F (-90 degrees Celsius),” Bob Balaram, Mars Helicopter Project’s chief engineer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, wrote in an update on Friday. “This comfortably protects key components such as the battery and some sensitive electronic components from damage in very cold temperatures.”
Over the next few days, the Ingenuity team will verify that the helicopter’s solar panels are functioning properly and are recharging its battery before testing its motors and sensors before its first flight, Balaram said.
Ingenuity is expected to make its first flight attempt no earlier than April 11, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory tweeted.
Ingenuity will attempt to fly in an atmosphere that is one percent of Earth’s density, making it harder to achieve lift – but will be assisted by gravity which is one-third that of our planet.
The first flight will involve climbing at a speed of about three feet (one meter) per second to a height of 10 feet (three meters), hovering there for 30 seconds, then descending to the surface.
Ingenuity will take high resolution photos in flight. Up to five flights of progressive difficulty are scheduled over the month.
The 1.8-kilogram rotorcraft cost NASA around $ 85 million to develop and is seen as a proof of concept that could revolutionize space exploration.
Future planes could cover the ground much faster than rovers and explore rougher terrain.