NASA Ingenuity Mars Helicopter: The Ingenuity Helicopter sent to Mars by NASA along with the Perseverance Rover has sent the first status report to the US space agency. In a statement, the agency said that the helicopter as well as its base station were working as per the expectations. Ingenuity would continue to remain attached to the Perseverance Rover for the next 30 to 60 days. The base station is an electrical box placed on the rover, and this box stores as well as routes the communication between Ingenuity and the team monitoring it on Earth.
Ingenuity Mars Helicopter operations lead at NASA’s JPL Tim Canham said that they were looking for two items in the data, one being the condition of the batteries of Ingenuity and the other being the confirmation that the base station was operating as per the design. Tim added that both of them had been working well, which was a positive report. The report was received on the intervening night of February 19 and 20 (Indian time) and the team was scheduled to proceed with the charging of the helicopter’s batteries sometime on Saturday (US time).
If the Mars helicopter mission is to succeed, then it is important that it has enough energy to maintain vital functions, including heating, while also having the optimal battery health, the agency added. The batteries were to be charged for an hour on Saturday, which would boost the charge to around 30% of the total capacity, and in a few days, the batteries would again be charged so that it reaches 35%. The helicopter would continue to be attached to the rover’s belly and be charged weekly as per the plan in the coming weeks.
Notably, Ingenuity is not sent to Mars to carry out any scientific experiments like Perseverance. Instead, the 2 kg helicopter is an experiment in itself. If everything goes as per planned, Ingenuity would become the first helicopter to undertake controlled flight on another planet. The test flight, which would need to be conducted within 31 Earth days or 30 Martian days after it has been deployed on the surface by Perseverance, is the only mission meant for Ingenuity and it is completely independent of the research that the rover would undertake. However, for that to happen, Ingenuity would first need to survive the chilling nights that Mars has, where temperatures can dip down to levels as low as -90 degrees Celsius.
Once Ingenuity takes its first flight and is able to hover, the agency said that 90% of its mission would succeed. If it is able to land correctly and remain operational after that, it would be able to attempt up to four more flights, with each one building up on the previous one.