This is what the small Ingenuity helicopter should look like in flight.
HANDOUT / NASA / JPL-CALTECH / AFP
Ingenuity, the NASA mini-helicopter that arrived on Mars in February attached to the Perseverance rover, spent its first night on the Red Planet.
This is a "major step" for the craft before its first flight, said the US space agency on Monday.
This ultralight helicopter, similar to a large drone, had detached this Saturday from Perseverance.
It used to feed on the rover's energy but now depends on its own solar panels to survive by warming up during the freezing Martian nights, during which the temperature can drop to -90 ° C.
🔴🚁 We are just days away from Ingenuity's first flight on the Red Planet!
In anticipation, we're inviting you (yes, you!) To join us for all the #MarsHelicopter pre-flight and post-flight activities: https://t.co/dDYWVFyohS pic.twitter.com/aLebSbxk1w
- NASA (@NASA) April 6, 2021
A first flight in mid-April?
"This is the first time that Ingenuity has been alone on the surface of Mars," said MiMi Aung, head of the Ingenuity project at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), NASA's laboratory.
“We have confirmation now that it was the right insulation, the right heaters, and that he has enough energy in his batteries to survive the cold nights, which is a great success for the team.
Over the next few days, Ingenuity will undergo engine and sensor tests.
If all goes well, it should perform its first test flight on the evening of April 11 at the earliest, according to JPL.
If the experiment is successful, it will be a real feat because the Martian air is of a density equivalent to only 1% of that of the Earth's atmosphere.
It will also be the first flight of a motorized vehicle on another planet.
Composed of four feet, a body and two superimposed propellers, Ingenuity weighs only 1.8 kg and measures 1.2 m from one end of its blades to the other.
NASA has revealed that a small piece of fabric from the Wright brothers' aircraft, which took off over a century ago in the United States, was placed on Ingenuity and is therefore currently on Mars.
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