NASA’s Ingenuity Helicopter Survives First Night Solo on Martian Surface

Photo Illustration: NASA via Getty

Cape Canaveral, April 6, 2021 ~ Ingenuity, NASA’s mini-helicopter, detached from the belly of the Perseverance rover, and has survived its first night alone on the surface of Mars.

The small craft had to rely on the solar-powered battery to run a heater to prevent its unshielded electrical components from freezing in the night, when temperatures on the Red Planet’s surface can drop as low as minus 130 degrees Fahrenheit.

When NASA’s Sojourner rover landed on Mars in 1997, it proved that roving the Red Planet was possible and completely redefined our approach to how we explore Mars. Similarly, we want to learn about the potential Ingenuity has for the future of science research,” said Lori Glaze, director of the Planetary Science Division at NASA Headquarters.

The helicopter will have 30 Martian days, known as sols, (31 Earth days) to complete its test flight mission once fully deployed, with the deployment process taking just over six Earth days.

A small piece of material that covered one of the wings of the Wright brothers’ aircraft, known as the Flyer, used in the first powered, controlled flight on Earth, is wrapped around a cable inside the helicopter. Apollo 11 flew with a different piece of the material, along with a small splinter of wood, to the Moon and back in July 1969.

Mars is hard,” said MiMi Aung, project manager for Ingenuity Mars Helicopter at NASA’s Jet Propulsion LabratoryOur plan is to work whatever the Red Planet throws at us the very same way we handled every challenge we’ve faced over the past six years – together, with tenacity and a lot of hard work, and a little Ingenuity.”


Simulated trailer from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab demonstrating Ingenuity flight.