Already several million miles from Earth but only a week into its seven-month journey to Mars, NASA's Ingenuity helicopter has been successfully powered up for the first time as it travels through space with the Perseverance rover. 

During the eight-hour operation, the performance of the space helicopter's six lithium-ion batteries was analyzed as the team brought their charge level up to 35%. It was previously determined a low charge state is optimal for battery health during the cruise to the Red Planet.

Operations lead for Mars Helicopter at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Tim Canham said that the event was a significant milestone for the helicopter, which is set to become the first aircraft to fly on another planet when it reaches Mars in early 2021. 

"This was a big milestone, as it was our first opportunity to turn on Ingenuity and give its electronics a 'test drive' since we launched on July 30," Canham said. He added that the team is planning to conduct a similar activity every couple of weeks in order to secure a stable state of charge. 

As of now, the rotorcraft relies on its power supply, but once it reaches Mars, it will draw power from its own solar panel and begin its work searching for sites interesting sites and collecting data for mapping routes to be used in future Mars missions.

Ingenuity will fly using its four rotors that are approximately a meter in length. It also has an internal heater to warm it up during Mars' cold nights. 

The space helicopter will first conduct an experimental flight-test window for about a month. If all goes well, Ingenuity will prove that powered, controlled flight by an aircraft can be achieved at Mars. in turn, future missions will have a new dimension to add to their explorations. 

Meanwhile, the Perseverance rover will be looking for signs of ancient microbial life on the Red Planet. NASA touts its newest Mars rover as "the largest, heaviest, and most sophisticated vehicle" to be sent on the planet and is enthusiastic about what it will achieve. The rover will also collect samples for its future return to our home planet, as well as characterize its geology and climate as well. Its explorations will pave the way for human exploration in the future. 

The Ingenuity Mars Helicopter is being managed by Caltech in Pasadena, California, and is built by NASA's JPL. Lockheed Martin Space provided the Mars Helicopter Delivery System.