ISO 9001 & UKAS Registered, Electron Beam Services in the United Kingdom ISO 9001 & UKAS Registered, Electron Beam Services in the United Kingdom

When NASA’s Perseverance probe arrived on Mars in February, it was carrying an important piece of equipment, an experimental helicopter drone called Ingenuity, which aims to be the first flying vehicle on the Red Planet or any other planet than Earth.

The Guardian reports that NASA has announced that Ingenuity has been lowered from its storage underneath Perseverance not the surface of Mars, and was now facing a series of tests before it takes to the skies for its maiden flight on Wednesday 14 April.

The drone had to complete its first test, to protect itself from the freezing conditions on Mars, with readings from Perseverance recording temperatures in its landing area, the Jezero Crater, at -83ºC.

After surviving its first night away from the mothership, the helicopter used its solar-powered battery to operate a heater to keep its delicate electrical equipment from damage. NASA said the success of the initial tests was a ‘major milestone’.

MiMi Aung, Ingenuity’s project leader at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said that while her team did all it could to prepare the helicopter, the group was very excited to see the results of their work on Mars.

“We now have confirmation that we have the right insulation, the right heaters, and enough energy in its battery to survive the cold night, which is a big win for the team,” she said. “We're excited to continue to prepare Ingenuity for its first flight test."

The next tests will involve Ingenuity’s motors and rotor equipment, in which it will attempt to rise about three metres off the surface of Mars, before briefly using forward into the planet’s extremely thin atmosphere, before turning around and landing again.

Further tests, once this first flight has been deemed successful, will push Ingenuity a little higher and further each time. NASA says such helicopters could assist astronauts on future search and collection missions.

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