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NASA's Ingenuity helicopter survives first freezing night on Mars

April 5, 2021. Summarized by summa-bot.

Compression ratio: 40.8%. 2 min read.

The Ingenuity helicopter survived its first night on the freezing cold surface of Mars, a major milestone in the rotorcraft's journey ahead of its first flight.

(CNN)The Ingenuity helicopter survived its first night on the freezing-cold surface of Mars, a major milestone in the rotorcraft's journey ahead of its historic first flight.

Jezero Crater, an ancient lake bed on Mars and the current site of the Perseverance rover and Ingenuity helicopter, can drop to temperatures of minus 130 degrees Fahrenheit.

The 4-pound helicopter finally separated on April 3 from the belly of the Perseverance rover, where it has been stashed since before the rover launched from Earth in July.

When Ingenuity does fly, which could happen as soon as April 11, it will be the first powered, controlled flight on another planet.

Ingenuity also had to be lightweight in order to fly through the Martian atmosphere, which has just 1% of the atmosphere present on Earth, while still having enough power to heat itself and survive the frigid Martian nights.

Soon after Perseverance deposited Ingenuity in the center of its airfield, the rover backed away from the helicopter.

The helicopter also needs to go through some checkouts of its computers, which will help Ingenuity autonomously fly through the Martian atmosphere.

Now that Ingenuity isn't borrowing power and heat from the rover, the helicopter will send back 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 settings necessary to make sure Ingenuity survives the next 30 days of its mission.

Now that the helicopter is on the Martian surface, it has 31 Earth days, or 30 Martian sols, to conduct up to five test flights.

Future flights will test the helicopter's ability to fly higher and longer.

"Our 30-sol test schedule is frontloaded with exciting milestones," said Teddy Tzanetos, deputy operations lead for the Ingenuity Mars helicopter at JPL, in a statement.

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