After traveling nearly 300 million miles to reach the Red Planet affixed to the belly of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Perseverance Rover, the experimental Ingenuity Mars Helicopter has descended the final 4 inches to the planet’s surface ahead of its anticipated maiden flight, which could come as early as this weekend, JPL said in a written statement.
After being deployed on April 3, the 4-pound helicopter, which is meant to prove the feasibility of powered flight on Mars, survived the freezing Martian night, providing relief to mission planners, according to Ingenuity Project Manager MiMi Aung of JPL.
“This is the first time that Ingenuity has been on its own on the surface of Mars,” she said. “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.”
Ingenuity is scheduled to spend 30 Martian days, or sols, conducting a series of test flights in the thin atmosphere, which is only about 1% as dense as Earth’s.
Deputy Operations Lead for the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter Teddy Tzanetos said his team was expecting an action-packed month.
“Our 30-sol test schedule is front-loaded with exciting milestones,” he said. “Whatever the future holds, we will acquire all the flight data we can within that time frame.”
More information on the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter is available online at mars.nasa.gov/technology/
#MarsHelicopter touchdown confirmed! Its 293 million mile (471 million km) journey aboard @NASAPersevere ended with the final drop of 4 inches (10 cm) from the rover's belly to the surface of Mars today. Next milestone? Survive the night. https://t.co/TNCdXWcKWE pic.twitter.com/XaBiSNebua
— NASA JPL (@NASAJPL) April 4, 2021