Nasa’s Ingenuity helicopter on Mars completed a second successful flight on Thursday.
Ingenuity autonomously flew for almost 52 seconds this time, climbing 16 feet up through the Martian atmosphere. After a brief hover, it tilted at a 5-degree angle and moved sideways for 7 feet.
The helicopter hovered in place again to make several turns. This occurred to allow Ingenuity’s color camera to capture images taken looking in different directions before touching back down in the center of the airfield. Ingenuity only collected black-and-white images with its navigation camera during the first flight.
“It sounds simple, but there are many unknowns regarding how to fly a helicopter on Mars. That’s why we’re here — to make these unknowns known,” said Håvard Grip, Ingenuity’s chief pilot at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Mars has one-third of the gravity we experience on Earth and the atmosphere is 1% of the density of Earth’s at its surface. This makes controlled flight much more difficult on Mars.
Ingenuity already has sent back a black-and-white image from this second flight, showing the shadow of the helicopter on the Martian surface as the rotorcraft hovered above.
“So far, the engineering telemetry we have received and analyzed tell us that the flight met expectations and our prior computer modeling has been accurate,” said Bob Balaram, chief engineer for the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in a statement.
“We have two flights of Mars under our belts, which means that there is still a lot to learn during this month of Ingenuity.”
The team is prepared to attempt three more flights over the next week.
The second test at the newly named Wright Brothers Field on Mars took place at 12:33pm local Mars time.
Commands for the flight were sent Wednesday night to the Perseverance rover, which acts as a communication station between the helicopter and its team on Earth. After uploading the commands from the rover, Ingenuity is able to fly by itself.
Zoom In 🧐@NASAPersevere’s Mastcam-Z captured the #MarsHelicopter's first flight. This video was intentionally targeted on the takeoff and landing zone. The helicopter flew out of the camera’s field of vision but the shadow of it hovering is visible. https://t.co/TNCdXWcKWE pic.twitter.com/ArAUGfDbPU
— NASA JPL (@NASAJPL) April 22, 2021