The history of NASA Helicopter ingenuity on Mars will make its third Red Planet flight this weekend, if all goes according to plan.
The Ingenuity team is aiming for exit number three early Sunday morning (April 25). The flight plan instructs Ingenuity to fly approximately 5 meters above the ground of Jezero de Mars crater, travel a total of 330 feet (100 m), and stay aloft for 80 seconds, with the pilot in NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory chief Håvard Grip. wrote in a blog post today (April 23).
Grip did not give an estimate of the take-off time, but said data and photos are expected to begin descending to Earth around 10:16 a.m. EDT (2:16 p.m. GMT) Sunday.
Video: Focus on the Ingenuity helicopter’s first flight on Mars
Ingenuity’s first two flights weren’t as involved. On his first revolutionary flight, which occurred on Monday April 19, Ingenuity ascended and descended straight, reached a maximum altitude of about 3m, and remained aloft for 39.1 seconds. Thursday April 22, the solar powered helicopter stayed in flight for almost 52 seconds, reached over 16.5 feet (5 m) in height and moved sideways for a total of 13 feet (4 m).
During this second flight, Ingenuity took a photo of Jezero’s soil and traces made by his much larger partner, NASA. Perseverance rover. This is “the first color image of the Martian surface taken by an aerial vehicle while at altitude,” NASA officials wrote in a caption of the recently unveiled photo, which Grip featured in its report. blog today. (Ingenuity also took photos on its first flight, but apparently only with its black-and-white navigation camera.)
Ingenuity is a technology demonstration designed to show that aerial vehicles can operate on Mars. A successful flight campaign could open the skies over the Red Planet to further exploration, NASA officials said.
The helicopter landed with Perseverance on February 18 and deployed from the rover on April 3 to prepare for its month-long flight campaign, which ends in early May. The Ingenuity team aims to complete a total of five flights during this period, each one more ambitious than the last.
Mike Wall is the author of “Over there“(Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book on the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.