The Ingenuity teams attempted and passed a second test flight of their small helicopter on Thursday. During this maneuver, the rotorcraft rose to about five meters from the ground, before moving sideways for a few meters.
An iconic photo
This Monday, April 19, NASA made history again by successfully completing a first powered flight on another planet. During that test, Ingenuity rose just over three meters above the ground for 39.1 seconds before landing successfully, according to altimeter data. Obviously, the mission team was delighted.
“Every image we get of the helicopter is special to me: after all, it’s never been done before“, a highlighted MiMi Aung, Ingenuity Mars Helicopter project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “But I have to say that of all the images, the one that will stay with me the most is that of the helicopter’s navigation camera: taken while the rotorcraft was 1.2 meters in the air.“.
This photo, taken in black and white, shows us Ingenuity’s projected shadow as he hovers. “Everyone will decide on the historical significance of this image, but when I first saw it I immediately thought of the imprint of Buzz Aldrin pictured on the lunar surface.“, Continues MiMi Aung. “This iconic image of Apollo 11 said “we walked on the moon”; ours says “we flew to another world“.
And once more !
This Thursday, the mission teams attempted a more ambitious second test.
For this test, the flight plan was as follows: the rotorcraft had to rise about five meters above the ground, then move sideways for two meters. He then had to hover in place before spinning several times so that his color camera could take pictures. He finally had to return to the center of the airfield to attempt a new landing.
As a reminder, all this is done independently. For this test, the flight orders were therefore sent to Ingenuity, which was to be responsible for executing them. And again, everything went well.
For this second test, Ingenuity took off at 12:30 p.m. (French time). As for the first time, it took a few hours to get the first feedback, the time for the helicopter to transfer its data to Perseverance, which was to relay them to an orbiting probe. This data was then sent to the NASA antennas. Here is the image taken during its flight. Others should follow in the next few hours:
This second flight was operated on the 18th day of the 30 days offered to the mission team to test Ingenuity. Over the next fortnight, engineers will try to push the limits of their protege, paving the way for other similar vehicles to be deployed in future missions.