Yesterday NASA spent some time explaining how the fifth test flight for the Ingenuity helicopter would differ from other flights that have occurred so far. The difference boiled down to rather than turning around and returning to the same location where Ingenuity took off, it landed at a new location. NASA has now confirmed that Ingenuity landed successfully at its new airfield after its fifth test flight.
This flight was the first one-way mission the helicopter has had on the Red Planet. NASA confirmed that Ingenuity took off at 3:26 PM EDT on May 7. It climbed to an altitude of 16.5 feet above the surface of Mars before flying south for a distance of 423 feet. This was the same exact path Ingenuity took last week for test flight number four.
However, rather than turning around and going back to the starting point as it did on the fourth flight, Ingenuity landed. NASA had previously stated that the reason Ingenuity was moved to a new landing zone was because the new landing zone was in the direction the Perseverance rover was traveling. Perseverance is providing support for the mission, including photo and video coverage.
Test flight number five lasted 108 seconds, and Ingenuity climbed to an altitude of 33 feet, twice as high as it has flown in the past. Ingenuity won’t be returning to Wright Brothers Field, it’s home since being deployed by Perseverance. NASA had initially intended to end test operations with the helicopter after 30 days and a maximum of five test flights. However, NASA has extended that mission, and Ingenuity will continue to operate.
Ingenuity mission operators have stated that the helicopter has turned out to be more robust than they expected. The rotor system, guidance, and navigation systems are said to be “doing great.”