NASA’s Ingenuity, the Mars helicopter, has survived its latest challenge: the extremely cold Martian night. This is a major milestone since nights in Jezero Crater get to - 90 °C (- 130 °F). That’s cold enough to damage batteries and electronics if the little rotorcraft couldn’t keep heating up. Ingenuity was dropped on the ground by the Perseverance rover in the early hours of Sunday.
“This is the first time that Ingenuity has been on its own on the surface of Mars,” MiMi Aung, Ingenuity project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in a statement. “But we now have confirmation that we have the right insulation, the right heaters, and enough energy in its battery to survive the cold night, which is a big win for the team. We’re excited to continue to prepare Ingenuity for its first flight test.”
The inaugural flight of Ingenuity won’t happen before April 11. Before then, the helicopter will continue further testing. First, the restraints that keep the blades together will be released whereafter they will be tested with the motor, along with the onboard computer.
Given that this is a technology demonstration it carries no scientific instruments. NASA just wants to see if propelled flight on another world is possible. If the first flight is successful, four more flights are expected over the following weeks.