The Mars Ingenuity Helicopter is poised to be the first helicopter to fly in outer space. The helicopter is currently positioned in the belly of the Perseverance rover which launched last month. Their interface recently caused the project to hit a milestone when the rover successfully charged the rotorcraft’s six lithium batteries up to 35% in order to keep it at a healthy level as it cruises steadily towards mars.
The plan is to charge the batteries this way every two weeks and then, once Ingenuity finally touches down on Mars, it will be charged by the helicopter’s solar panel. Then, once they test the vehicle’s durability during the cold Martian nights, they’ll be ready for a test drive. The flight tests will take place over a 30-Martian-Day window and, if they’re successful, it will prove that powered controlled flight by an aircraft is possible on Mars. This will enable future exploration missions to add an aerial component.
Given what the helicopter has been able to survive so far, project manager MiMi Aung was hopeful, “This charge activity shows we have survived launch and that so far we can handle the harsh environment of interplanetary space… We have a lot more firsts to go before we can attempt the first experimental flight test on another planet, but right now we are all feeling very good about the future.”