Ingenuity Mars Helicopter Postpones Flights Until August
It’s now dust season and winter in the area on Mars where NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter is located. This means there’s more dust in the air and less sunlight available to help recharge Ingenuity’s batteries. Dust levels are predicted to subside later in July, so the team has decided to give the helicopter’s batteries a break for a few weeks in order to build their daily state of charge back up. Depending on weather conditions, Ingenuity is expected to be back in the air around the start of August.
As recently explained, the winter season on Mars is especially difficult on batteries. One big component of this is the shorter days, meaning less sunlight available for the solar cells used to recharge the batteries. (Excess dust in the air makes this even worse.) However, another big issue is the cold weather when overnight temperatures can drop down to minus 112 °F (minus 80 °C). At low temperatures, batteries do not perform as well. The cold also necessitates the use of a battery draining heater to protect electronics from the damaging effects of cold cycling.