NASA is already planning its third Mars Ingenuity helicopter flight

Brittany A. Roston - Apr 23, 2021, 5:54pm CDT
NASA is already planning its third Mars Ingenuity helicopter flight

As anticipated, NASA recently conducted a second flight involving its Ingenuity helicopter that arrived on Mars with the Perseverance rover. The second flight was as successful as the first, and now the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory is back with details about its third planned flight involving the tiny copter. This time around, Ingenuity will go on a 330ft trip.

The Ingenuity helicopter resembles a small drone; it is a technology demonstration and marks a new milestone for NASA as the first time an aerial vehicle has been operated on another planet. NASA has explained that there are multiple challenges when it comes to flying a helicopter on Mars, not the least of which is the planet’s extremely thin atmosphere.

Despite these potential problems, the first Ingenuity flight was a success — one that was very modest, as well, giving the team a chance to gather data about the helicopter and how it performed. The second flight took place at the end of this week, and now the space agency says it will conduct a third flight on Sunday, April 25.

This time around, NASA will push Ingenuity to a speed of around 4.5MPH at an altitude of 16ft; the planned flight will involve the helicopter traveling a roundtrip distance of 330ft. The eager public can keep an eye out for details about the flight — hopefully ones on its third success — on late Sunday, according to JPL.

Presumably, a successful third flight will lead to a fourth flight, giving NASA the chance to gather as much data as possible. Ingenuity doesn’t have a mission of its own aside from performing flights, but its achievements will pave the way for potential future aircraft sent out to gather data on the Martian environment.

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