Ingenuity helicopter survives 90 degrees below zero on its first night alone on Mars

The mission engineers of the NASA Perseverance rover to Mars have reported that the Ingenuity helicopter made it through its first frigid night without a hitch of the Red Planet alone. Now, Ingenuity will have to fend for himself and try to survive the cold Martian nights on his own.

With temperatures reaching minus 90º Celsius, the cold Martian nights suppose a real challenge for helicopter electronicsUnprotected electrical components can freeze and crack and damage onboard batteries needed for flight, NASA reports.

This Sunday, April 4, the Ingenuity helicopter was finally landed on the surface of Mars, after completing the deployment maneuver and lowered to the surface from the underside of the Perseverance rover. Once deposited on the surface of Mars, the Perseverance rover has drifted away from the helicopter.

Thus, on Sunday the last 10 centimeters of descent from the rover’s belly to the surface of Mars were completed. Before letting go completely, Ingenuity took the opportunity to charge its batteries 100% thanks to its connection with the Perseverance rover, but from now on, it will have to do it through its solar panels autonomously..

The Ingenuity team will check the temperatures and the performance of the battery recharge over the next several days. If everything looks good, then the following steps will come: unlocking the rotor blades and testing all motors and sensors, to prepare to begin flight tests, now scheduled for no earlier than April 11.

“We now have confirmation that we have the proper insulation, the proper heaters and enough battery power to survive the cold night, which is a huge victory for the team. We are excited to continue preparing Ingenuity for its first flight test. “said Mimi Aung, manager of NASA’s Ingenuity project.

The first flight will be a test that will last about 30 seconds and in which the helicopter will rise about 3 meters above the surface of Mars. It will serve to check the ability of the Ingenuity to fly longer and higher in the following flights.