A new step has been taken for the NASA mission to Mars. On Saturday evening, the Ingenuity mini-helicopter, which arrived in February on Mars folded up and attached under the Perseverance rover, detached itself from it to land on the surface of the Red Planet. The offspring has now successfully spent its first nights on this planet, surviving in particular the very low temperatures that prevail there.
The rover had moved away so as not to shade it, because the helicopter needed the sun to supply its solar panels with energy, and thus be able to survive by warming itself during the frosty Martian nights. “There is a small radiator that keeps a temperature of around 7 ° Celsius inside the helicopter, while temperatures at night on Mars can drop to -90 °”, explained Friday Bob Balaram, chief engineer of the Mars Helicopter project. “This helps protect the device’s key equipment”, he added.
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Over the next two days, the ground crew will verify that the solar panels are working as expected, before starting to test the motors and sensors. The helicopter will then be able to unfold its blades in preparation for the first flight, which should not take place before April 11. Ingenuity does not have any scientific instrument, but only embeds a camera. The flights, which will take place over a period of thirty Martian days, are above all a technical demonstration.