Well, we’ve seen better photos of Mars, but this one is special in that it was taken by NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter. Encouraging craftsmanship managed to survive its first cool night on Mars, which brings us one step closer to its initial flight.
The low resolution Photo was taken on April 3, when ingenuity was still under Perseverance Rover. And in fact, you can see two of the rover’s wheels in the upper corners of the image. This image is a discreet preview of what is to come; once 4 pounds (1.8-kg) rotorcraft takes flight, it will try to take high-resolution color images of its surroundings at heights that reach up to 3 meters.
In other good news, ingenuity did it through its first night on Mars as a stand-alone system, according to a NASA announcement. Skill had been attached to the bottom of the rover until this past weekend and it withstood a 4-inch (10-centimeters) free fall to the surface. The helicopter was dropd to the surface on April 3 and now stands upright on its four outstretched legs.
That ingenuity managed to survive its first night on Mars is a great relief. The temperatures in the Jezero crater may drop to –130 degrees Fahrenheit (–90 degrees Celsius) at night. Sensitive electronic components and batteries can be severely damaged at these temperatures. The helicopter is no longer linked to endurance and must now operate its heater from its own battery, which it will do by drawing energy from its solar panels.
“No more free power,” Bob Balaram, chief engineer of the Mars Helicopter Project at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, wrote in a Article written for NASA.
In a announcement, MiMi Aung, ingenuity project manager at NASA’s JPL, said “we have now confirmed that we have the right insulation, the right heaters and enough energy in [Ingenuity’s] battery to survive the cold night, which is a big win for the team. ”
Rotorcraft will now monitor itself over the next few days to determine how well its thermal control and electrical systems are performing and whether adjustments are needed. Provided everything is chewy-boo, the next big step will be to release the constraints that currently bind the rotor blades together, followed by testing the blades and their associated motors. The team will also evaluate the vehicle’s autonomous navigation system along with a device that measures its orientation and angular frequency during flight.
Perseverance, which forwards messages from Invention to mission controllers on Earth, then moves to Van Zyl Overlook—A sweet spot from which the rover can look at and examine the 10 x 10 meter long aerodrome on which Ingenuity was deposited.
WThey are moving ever closer to this historic flight, where ingenuity – the fingers are well crossed – becomes the first aircraft to take to the skies in an alien world. NASA says the first flight could happen as early as this Sunday, April 11.
The helicopter carries no scientific instruments other than the cameras. The Ingenuity mission is strictly intended as a technical demonstration, as NASA is considering future missions involving more sophisticated aircraft. NASA has set aside 30 suns or March days for these important tests.