NASA explains how the Ingenuity helicopter's fifth flight will be different from the others

NASA has scheduled the fifth flight for the Ingenuity helicopter on Mars for Friday, May 7. The flight is targeting a liftoff time of 12:33 PM local Mars time, or 3:26 PM EDT. Assuming that target liftoff time is hit, data will begin coming down at 7:31 PM EDT. For the fifth flight, Ingenuity will take off from Wright Brothers Field, the same location where the helicopter took off and touched down on all the other flights.

While the takeoff location for the fifth flight will be the same, where the helicopter lands will be different. During the fifth flight, Ingenuity will climb to an altitude of 16 feet and retrace its course from the first four flights by heading south 423 feet. Rather than turning around and coming back to its starting point as it has previously, Ingenuity will climb to a new height of 33 feet while NASA takes some color and black-and-white images of the area.

The flight is expected to last about 110 seconds before Ingenuity lands marking the completion of its first one-way flight. After landing at its new location, NASA says that it will start a new demonstration phase. That new demo phase will exhibit what the technology can do to assist other missions down the road. NASA used the fourth flight of the helicopter to scout for a new landing zone about 328 feet away.

The Ingenuity team used data gathered by the helicopter to build digital elevation maps giving mission controllers confidence that the new airfield was flat and ideal for landing. So far, Ingenuity has been highly successful, and NASA points out that the helicopter is more robust than they had hoped.

Mission controllers say the energy system has provided more than enough energy to keep the helicopter heaters operating during the night and to conduct flight operations during the day. Ingenuity will travel to a new base station because it needs to be closer to Perseverance and the new base is in the direction the rover is heading.