Ingenuity, a small 4-pound helicopter, successfully landed on Mars with NASA’s Perseverance on Thursday, February 18th. Ingenuity is already communicating information back down to NASA, with its first downlink arriving at 6:30pm EST on Friday, just one day after the landing. Tim Canham, Ingenuity Mars helicopter lead at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), affirmed, “Both appear to be working great. With this positive report, we will move forward with tomorrow’s charge of the helicopter batteries.” The helicopter is equipped with six lithium-ion batteries, which are planned to be charged to 30% of their maximum capacity. Data regarding the battery charging will be sent back to the headquarters to help NASA assess how to proceed with charging batteries in the future. Eventually, Ingenuity will charge its own batteries using solar panels without additional aid from Perseverance; this will allow Ingenuity to travel far from Perseverance without battery life imposing on the mission. Ingenuity will soon embark on experimental flight tests during a 30-Martin-Day window. JPL explained. Unlike a typical day on Earth, a Martian Day is 24 hours and 37 minutes. Helicopters like Ingenuity can be used to foresee any obstacles in the path of a rover on Mars, and according to Space.com, “Ingenuity’s flights could pioneer a new generation of soaring Mars explorers…”
I am always astonished at what NASA is capable of accomplishing. The fact NASA has a helicopter flying around on Mars is incredible. I am curious to see how this innovation will affect future space explorations and if the helicopters could possibly accelerate the space exploration process. It’s interesting that Ingenuity is such a small piece of technology weighing only 4 pounds, yet is such an astronomical breakthrough in terms of what NASA has been able to accomplish on other planets. Hopefully this breakthrough in technology will help scientists study the Red Planet and eventually help with a human mission to Mars!