- NASA conducted a critical test on its Mars helicopter earlier this month.
- The agency checked electronic systems and charged the batteries. All systems looked normal.
- The Perseverance rover and Ingenuity rotorcraft will reach the Red Planet in February 2021.
NASA has booted up its Mars-bound Ingenuity helicopter for a critical test of the rotorcraft's electronic systems. So far, so good.
Earlier this month, NASA's Ingenuity team powered up the rotorcraft and charged the batteries during the 8-hour procedure. Everything seemed to be in working order. To ensure the lithium-ion batteries would last a long time and work properly, the team charged them to only around 35 percent.
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"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," Tim Canham, the operations lead for Mars Helicopter at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in a statement. "Since everything went by the book, we'll perform the same activity about every two weeks to maintain an acceptable state of charge."
NASA launched the Perseverance rover and its stowaway rotorcraft on July 30 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station aboard United Launch Alliance's Atlas V rocket. Ingenuity is currently tucked away in the rover's undercarriage and is drawing power from Perseverance. Eventually, it will be powered by a solar panel of its own.
When Perseverance reaches Mars in February 2021, Ingenuity will have a 30-Martian-day window to test its mettle on the Red Planet, according to NASA. First, Perseverance will gently unfurl the rotorcraft onto the Martian surface, and then it will begin its journey.
Ingenuity is a critical technology demonstration that could signal whether this type of craft could be used on Mars in the future. Teams of future astronauts, for example, could use rotorcraft like Ingenuity to scout out prime research locations.
Seven months—and several more checkups—until the fun begins.
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