Technology 2 min read

NASA Powers up its Ingenuity Mars Helicopter in Space

In this illustration, NASA's Ingenuity Mars Helicopter stands on the Red Planet's surface as NASA's Perseverance rover (partially visible on the left) rolls away.
Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

In this illustration, NASA's Ingenuity Mars Helicopter stands on the Red Planet's surface as NASA's Perseverance rover (partially visible on the left) rolls away. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) powered up its Mars helicopter, named Ingenuity, for the first time in space.

On July 30, NASA‘s Perseverance Rover successfully launched aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket.

The Mars-bound rover is set to find out if there’s life on the Red Planet. However, part of the mission involves testing whether a robotic flight is possible on the planet.

That’s where the Ingenuity Mars helicopter comes in. According to NASA, the tiny chopper weighs about two kilograms and requires six lithium-ion batteries to function.

On August 7, Ingenuity was plugged into the rover’s power supply, which powered up the batteries for the first time in space.

Reports suggest that the helicopter charged up to 35 percent over eight hours. Also, the team pointed out that the charge state is ideal for maintaining battery health during the six months journey to Mars.

In a statement, the operations lead for Mars Helicopter at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Tim Canham said:

“This was a big milestone, as it was our first opportunity to turn on Ingenuity and give its electronics a ‘test drive’ since we launched on July 30.”

Canham further stated that the agency intends to perform the same activity every two weeks. That way, the helicopter can maintain an acceptable state of charge.

Using a Mars Helicopter to Explore the Red Planet

Upon landing on Mars, Ingenuity should detach itself from the Perseverance Rover. After that, the chopper will have to rely on its solar panels to recharge the lithium-ion batteries.

Ingenuity will remain with the Perseverance for two months. Subsequently, the small craft will get a 30-Martian-days experimental flight-test window to explore the Red Planet.

Scientists are looking to test out the Martian atmosphere for helicopter ride using Ingenuity. If successful, the test flight would prove that a powered and controlled flight is achievable on future missions.

Indeed, this could result in more extensive aerial exploration with second-generation rotorcrafts.

Read More: NASA Scientist Experiments with Growing Radishes on Lunar Soil

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Sumbo Bello

Sumbo Bello is a creative writer who enjoys creating data-driven content for news sites. In his spare time, he plays basketball and listens to Coldplay.

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