(CNN) – The creativity helicopter survived its first night on the icy surface of Mars, an important milestone in the plane’s flight prior to its maiden historic flight.
The temperature at Jezero Crater, a former lake bed on Mars and the current location of the Perseverance rover and Ingenuity helicopter, can drop as low as -90 ° C. This is low enough to cause significant damage to the helicopter battery and electrical components.
The 2kg helicopter finally detached on April 3 from the belly of the Perseverance rover, where it had been in hiding since before the vehicle was launched from the ground in July.
The ingenuity went through a series of movements to propagate from under the rover, what looked like a transformation into a butterfly, before dropping the last 10 centimeters onto the surface of Mars.
Low swing, sweet helicopter …Embed a Tweet It spreads slowly and cautiously # helicoptercleverness. The tech demonstration is currently unfolding from its stowage position and getting ready to safely touch the surface of Mars. See upcoming milestones: https://t.co/TNCdXWcKWE pic.twitter.com/3AyaiHOH2k
– NASA JPL (@ NASAJPL) March 30, 2021
“This is the first time that creativity has been alone on Mars,” said Mi Ong, creativity project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, in a statement.
“But we now have assurance that we have the right insulation, the right heaters and enough battery power to survive the cold night, which is a great victory for the team. We are excited to continue preparing Ingenuity for its first flight test.”
The next feat is flying
When creativity flies, which may happen as early as April 11th, it will be the first powered and controlled flight to another planet. Referring to the first feat on Earth, Ingenuity carries a canvas rack from the Wright brothers’ plane, the Flyer 1.
Creativity, the first helicopter ever sent to Mars, posed a challenge to the engineers who designed it for a number of reasons.
It should have been small enough to accommodate the rover without endangering the mission of perseverance, and is the first to search for evidence of ancient microbial life on Mars.
The creativity must also be lightweight to fly through Mars’ atmosphere, which contains only 1% of the Earth’s atmosphere. That is, while you still have enough strength to warm up and survive the cold Mars nights. The delicate nature of the Martian atmosphere makes it difficult to generate lift.
Soon after perseverance for ingenuity took hold in the midst of its airport, the rover moved away from the helicopter. This allowed the solar helicopter array to collect the critical sunlight.
Perseverance sent photos of the helicopter’s four legs on the roof on April 4. The helicopter blades, currently stacked on top of one another, will be deployed on April 7. The mission team on the ground will send commands to the helicopter to “move” the blades.
The helicopter also needs to run some checks on its computers, which will help creativity to fly autonomously through the Martian atmosphere.
Now that Ingenuity does not borrow power and heat from the rover, the helicopter will send information on the performance of its power and thermal control systems over the next two days. This will allow the helicopter team to configure the necessary settings to ensure Ingenuity remains for the next 30 days of its mission.
Creativity is a technical show, which means it has a short mission compared to the rover’s two-year plan to explore the Jizero Crater. Now that the helicopter is on Mars, it has 31 Earth days, or 30 Mars suns, to conduct up to five test flights.
During the first flight, the helicopter will attempt to rise approximately 3 meters in the air from the center of its flat 10 x 10 meter airfield, then turn around and land again. The test should take about 30 seconds. Future flights will test the helicopter’s ability to fly higher and longer.
Meanwhile, the Tenacity Wagon will sit nearby and watch the flight, taking pictures, video and audio. They will arrive on Earth in the days following the first flight.
Once the Ingenuity journey ends, the craft will focus on its science mission and begin studying rocks and collecting samples that will be returned to Earth on future missions.
“Our 30 Suns Test program is forging ahead with exciting breakthroughs,” said Teddy Tzanitos, deputy director of operations for the Ingenity helicopter on Mars at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in a statement. “Whatever the future holds, we will get as much flight data as possible within this timeframe.”