After the successful landing of the Perseverance rover on Martian soil on February 18th following the dreaded seven minutes of terror, the Ingenuity helicopter gave signs of life . It is currently well sheltered under the hood of Perseverance. Ingenuity may be a small helicopter weighing only 2 kg , but that does not prevent it from being very ambitious.
Render of the Ingenuity helicopter with the Perseverance rover - Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech
Indeed, his objective is to carry out the first flight over the red planet . His mission will last 30 Martian days. He will have to carry out during it a total of 5 flights to collect telemetry data. Ingenuity is the first aircraft ever created to take off and fly in an atmosphere other than Earth's atmosphere.
Ingenuity is preparing in smoothly making the first flyby of Mars
In the meantime, Ingenuity is gradually preparing for takeoff. It was powered up for the first time on Saturday, February 20. Its six batteries lithium-ions will be chargedes at about 30% of their capacity. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) team in charge of the March 2020 mission plans to charge them to 35% of their capacity within a few days.
Then, weekly recharging sessions will be scheduled to keep the helicopter warm on the cold surface of Mars and thus prepare it for its first flight. In fact, Ingenuity is currently charging thanks to the Perseverance rover. However, it will charge autonomously with its solar panels once it is deployed. As JPL clarified, "once Perseverance deploys Ingenuity to the surface, the helicopter will have a 30-day Martian experimental flight test period." For comparison, a Martian day equals 24 hours and 37 minutes on Earth.
Finally, JPL added that: “If Ingenuity survives its first frightening Martian nights where temperatures drop alsoso low as -90 ° C, the team will make the first flight of an aircraft in another world. If Ingenuity is successful in taking off and hovering during its first flight, over 90% of the project objectives will have been met ”. The ultimate goal, of course, is to land Ingenuity and then have him succeed four more flights before the end of the mission. As for him, the Perseverance rover carries in addition to all its scientific instruments two microphones to record the sounds of the planet Mars .