NASA’s Mars Ingenuity helicopter, the first plane to be propelled on another planet, is free of the Perseverance rover that carried it and appears to be working long before its maiden flight Sunday, the space agency said.
NASA plans to broadcast the results of that first flight at 3:30 a.m. EDT Monday after the helicopter transmits data and images to Perseverance, which will send it back to Earth.
The helicopter dislodged from the rover’s belly on Saturday and survived freezing temperatures with its own heaters, which NASA said Tuesday was “a major milestone.”
The 4-pound rover uses solar panels to charge its batteries and keep delicate electronics safe from the extreme cold that can reach minus 130 degrees F.
“So far, everything has been going great, so now I’m 90% stress-free for Ingenuity,” said Jeremy Morrey, principal engineer at Lockheed Martin, who built the helicopter’s protective shield and robotic release mechanism.
Morrey said he and many other members of the NASA team fervidly watched the high-resolution images showing the development of the aircraft as designed.
“The images were really spectacular,” Morrey said. “I mean, you can see the texture and composition of the carbon fiber in the rotors and the little springs as they were released.”
The craft was covered in Martian red dust, even though it had been covered during the rover’s landing on February 18 because the rover’s landing thruster thrusters had raised clouds of debris.
“The cover was designed to protect Ingenuity from rocks and pebbles, not dust, so there was a gap for dust to enter,” Morrey said. “Once the helicopter rotors start spinning, I hope it takes all that dust away. However, they can stir up a lot more as well. We’ll see.”
Lockheed is working on a landing apparatus for NASA’s next interplanetary helicopter, the Dragonfly mission to Saturn’s moon Titan in 2027. Morrey said NASA and Lockheed are closely watching Ingenuity for lessons they may apply to future missions.
The helicopter also has a camera and it sent its first photo to NASA, showing dusty red stones below it. The aircraft does not carry scientific equipment, as NASA considers it simply a demonstration of powered flight on another planet.
The helicopter’s survivability since its launch on Saturday confirms that it has “the right insulation, the right heaters, and enough battery power to survive the cold night, which is a great victory,” said MiMi Aung, project manager for the helicopter. with NASA Jet Propulsion. Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
NASA plans a live broadcast at 11 a.m. EDT Monday to reveal more data and images, which will include a video taken by the rover showing the helicopter flying.
Mars News and Information at MarsDaily.com
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NASA’s Mars helicopter survives only the first cold Martian night
Pasadena CA (JPL) April 6, 2021
NASA’s Ingenuity Mars helicopter has emerged from its first night on the surface of Mars. Nighttime temperatures in Jezero Crater can drop to minus 130 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 90 degrees Celsius), which can freeze and crack unprotected electrical components and damage onboard batteries needed for flight. Surviving that first night after being deployed from where it was attached to the belly of NASA’s Perseverance rover on April 3 is a major milestone for the 4-pound (1.8 kilogram) … read more