Controllers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Southern California receive the first status report on the Ingenuity Mars helicopter. It landed on February 18, 2021, in Jezero Crater attached to the Perseverance rover.

The downlink, which arrived at 3:30 p.m. Pacific Standard Time (PST) via the Martian Reconnaissance Orbiter, showed that the helicopter and its base station (the electrical box on the rover that stores and directs communication between the rotorcraft and Earth) are working properly. … The helicopter itself will remain attached to the rover for another 30-60 days.

There are two important points in the data: the state of charge of the Ingenuity batteries and the confirmation that the base station is working properly. That is, all commands to turn on and off the heaters work as expected – the helicopter electronics must remain in standby mode. The dispatchers concluded that everything was working fine. In the near future, NASA will continue charging the helicopter batteries.

Ensuring that Ingenuity has enough energy on board to maintain heat and other vital functions, as well as maintain optimal battery health, is essential to the success of the first helicopter on Mars. In a few days, the batteries will be charged to 35%, and future charging sessions will be scheduled weekly while the helicopter is attached to the rover.

After Perseverance deploys Ingenuity to the surface, the helicopter will have 30 Martian days (31 Earth days) of experimental flight. If Ingenuity manages to take off and hover on its maiden flight, more than 90% of the project’s goals will already be met.

“We are in uncharted territory,” concluded MiMi Aung, Project Manager for the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter at JPL.