On April 3rd, the Mars Ingenuity helicopter was removed from its carbon-fiber shield on the Perseverance rover’s belly. On Sunday, April 11th, it will make its first attempt at a powered, controlled flight, becoming the first aircraft to operate on another planet. In the meantime, Ingenuity accomplished another major milestone as it survived its first full night on the Martian surface.
Surviving that first night was no easy task for the 1.8 kg (4 lbs) rotorcraft. Around the Octavia E. Butler Landing – where the Perseverance rover is stationed in the Jezero crater – nighttime temperatures can plunge as low as -90 °C (-130 °F). These conditions can cause unprotected electronics to freeze and crack, as well as cause damage to onboard batteries that must to remain operational through the night.
Enduring a Martian night is just one of many challenges facing Ingenuity and its parent-mission Perseverance. However, the situation is complicated by the fact that the design of Ingenuity needed to be small enough to fit aboard the rover and light enough to fly in the thin Martian atmosphere (which has less than 1% of Earth’s atmospheric pressure).
We’re in the home stretch. The #MarsHelicopter has lowered all ...