Mars 2020 mission controllers received the first report from the Perseverance rover, which landed last week – with the Ingenuity helicopter in its “belly” – at the Jezero crater on Mars. For now, the information reveals that the mission is going as planned.
The report sent via the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which is in orbit around Mars, indicates that both the helicopter and the base station are operating as expected. The basis is fundamental to ensure communication between Ingenuity and Earth. For the next two months, the helicopter should remain attached to Perseverance, in order to begin its activities on Martian soil.
According to Tim Canham, Ingenuity’s operations leader, two important items were being looked for in the report: the state of Ingenuity’s batteries and confirmation that the base is working as expected. With the positive result, it will be possible to continue charging the batteries. For now, it receives power from the Perseverance source, but as soon as Ingenuity is implanted on the surface of Mars, the helicopter’s batteries will be charged exclusively by its own solar panel.
For Ingenuity to be successful on its flights, it will be necessary to have enough energy to keep warm and to maintain other vital functions. That’s because temperatures on the planet drop -90 ° C at night. If the helicopter survives the first nights on the planet, the team will try to make a first flight with the device.
“We are in unfamiliar territory, but the team is used to it,” said MiMi Aung, project manager for the Ingenuity Mars helicopter. “Almost all of the milestones from now until the end of our flight demonstration program will be unpublished, and all of them must be successful in order for us to proceed to the next step. We will enjoy this good news for now, but then we have to get back to work ”.
Perseverance will investigate signs of life on Mars. The rover is expected to travel about 20 kilometers from the planet’s surface for about two years, looking for traces of life in the 3.5 billion-year delta of the river that flowed into the lake that occupied the Jezero crater millions of years ago.