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"Major milestone": NASA's Ingenuity mini-helicopter makes it through first night alone on frigid Mars surface ahead of historic flight attempt

NASA's Mars helicopter prepares for flight
NASA's Mars helicopter prepares for flight 00:46

NASA's Ingenuity mini-helicopter has survived its first night alone on the frigid surface of Mars, the U.S. space agency said, hailing it as "a major milestone" for the tiny craft as it prepares for its first flight.

The ultra-light aircraft was dropped on the surface on Saturday after detaching from the belly of the Perseverance rover, which touched down on the Red Planet on February 18.

Detached from the Perseverance, Ingenuity had to rely on its own solar-powered battery to run a vital heater to protect its unshielded electrical components from freezing and cracking during the bitter Martian night, where temperatures can plunge as low as minus 130 degrees.

Making it through the frigid Martian night was "a major milestone for the small rotorcraft," NASA said in a statement Monday.

"This is the first time that Ingenuity has been on its own on the surface of Mars," said MiMi Aung, Ingenuity project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

"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."

Over the coming days, Ingenuity will undergo tests of its rotor blades and motors.

If all goes well, Ingenuity is expected to make its first flight attempt no earlier than the evening of April 11, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory said.

It will be the first aircraft to attempt powered, controlled flight on another planet.

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