FP TrendingAug 17, 2020 15:27:38 IST
The Ingenuity Mars Helicopter received its first recharge in outer space on its way to Mars aboard the Perseverance rover. The tiny chopper, weighing only two kilograms, was powered up for the first time on 7 August ahead of its exploration on the red planet.
NASA said that the helicopter required six lithium-ion batteries to function, which were powered up during the eight-hour-long operation and the charging level brought up to 35 per cent. This low charge state was required for the helicopter’s optimal health in order to survive the seven-month journey and finally work on Mars.
Tim Canham, the operations lead for Mars Helicopter at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, said that this was a “big milestone”, as the charging gave them the “first opportunity to turn on Ingenuity and give its electronics a 'test drive' since we launched on July 30”. He also informed that the same activity will be performed regularly from now on - “about every two weeks” - in order to “maintain an acceptable state of charge”.
Once it lands on Mars and detaches itself from the rover, Ingenuity will have to recharge using its solar panels. It will stay with the Perseverance for two months after landing before it goes its own way.
The chopper is a separate experiment from the Perseverance rover. It is a test flight aimed by scientists to try out the Martian atmosphere for a helicopter ride. If Ingenuity manages to withstand the harsh environment on Mars, scientists at JPL will give it a 31 Earth day test flight window. According to researchers, if test flight succeeds, Ingenuity will prove that a powered and controlled flight by an aircraft can be achieved on the Red Planet. This will, in turn, enable future Mars missions to “potentially add an aerial dimension to their explorations with second-generation rotorcraft”.
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