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Mars Throws Minus 130 Degrees Fahrenheit at Ingenuity, Helicopter Survives

After a day ago it completely separated from the Perseverance rover and was left alone under the Martian sun so that its solar array could bathe in light, the Ingenuity helicopter was surrounded by an alien night that came with a dangerous friend in tow: extreme cold.
Ingenuity helicopter on Mars 1 photo
We all know Mars is a very inhospitable place, but to give you a sense of how much so, imagine evenings in the Jezero Crater where the two machines are now come with temperatures as low as minus 130 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 90 degrees Celsius) as soon as the Sun sets.

Engineers running Ingenuity knew their multi-step deployment of the helicopter would be challenging, but so far everything worked as planned, including having the small machine survive its first Martian night on the reddish soil of our neighboring planet.

“This is the first time that Ingenuity has been on its own on the surface of Mars,” said in a statement MiMi Aung, Ingenuity project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. “But 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. We’re excited to continue to prepare Ingenuity for its first flight test.”

Exciting as the news may be, we do have to keep in mind a few more nights await Ingenuity before it gets a chance at flying 10 feet (3 meters) above the surface for just 30 seconds. The flight is not scheduled until April 11 at the earliest, so the machine is not out of the woods yet.

With Ingenuity, NASA hopes to open a new chapter in the way the exploration of alien worlds is done. Having a machine that can move through the air higher than a rover can ever hope to, but significantly lower than what orbiting satellites are capable of, will probably have a significant impact on future discoveries.

It’s unclear whether the mission will succeed, given the particularities of the planet; Mars has about one-third Earth’s gravity, and an atmosphere that is just one percent as dense.

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