Controllers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) received a downlink on Friday (19/2/2021) at 6:30 p.m. EST via the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, showing the 2-kilogram helicopter named Ingenuity and the base station was operating normally.
“Both appear to be functioning well. With this positive report, we will continue with the recharging of the helicopter battery,” said Tim Canham, head of Ingenuity Mars helicopter operations at JPL. Space.com, Tuesday (23/2/2021).
The battery charging procedure took place on Saturday and charged the helicopter’s six lithium-ion batteries, to roughly 30 percent of the planned capacity.
Data will be sent back to Earth to decide how to proceed with battery charging sessions in the future.
For now, JPL plans to charge the battery to 35 percent capacity in a few more days and then conduct weekly charging sessions to keep the helicopter warm on the cold surface of Mars, ready for flight in a few months.
Ingenuity draws its power from Perseverance early on, but once the rover unleashes the helicopter, the drone will fully charge itself using solar panels.
“After Perseverance releases Ingenuity to the surface, the helicopter will undergo an experimental flight test window for 31 Earth days,” JPL wrote in a statement.
JPL explains that if Ingenuity manages to survive the first cold night on Mars, where temperatures drop as low as minus (-) 90 degrees Celsius, then the mission team will resume its first flight.
Mission to Mars: Successful and Unsuccessful
If Ingenuity manages to take off and drift during its first flight, more than 90 percent of the project’s objectives will be achieved.
If the helicopter lands successfully and remains operational, up to four more flights can be attempted, it will be a milestone for NASA.
As an experimental mission, Ingenuity Flight could pilot a new generation of Mars explorers working independently or alongside future human landing missions.
Mini helicopters flying on Mars can spy in front of explorers to plan the best route or hover over dangerous terrain to carry out scientific studies.