NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter has added many firsts to its kitty. After becoming the first to test power flight on another world and to capture the colour image of the Martian surface, the mini helicopter has now completed its fifth flight with a first short one-way trip.
Ingenuity Mars flew to the Red Planet on February 18, while being attached to the belly of NASA’s Perseverance rover.
On its fifth flight on Mars, the mini-helicopter took the one-way trip from Wright Brothers Field to a new airfield 423 feet (129 metres) to the south. This was the first time it flew to a new landing site, the US space agency said on Saturday.
The flight began at 3:26 p.m. EDT (12:26 p.m. PDT, 12:33 p.m. local Mars time) and lasted 108 seconds.
After arrival above its new airfield, Ingenuity climbed to an altitude record of 33 feet (10 metres) and captured high-resolution colour images of its new neighborhood before touching down.
The fifth flight represents the rotorcraft’s transition to its new operations demonstration phase. This phase will focus on investigating what kind of capabilities a rotorcraft operating from Mars can provide.
Examples include scouting, aerial observations of areas not accessible by a rover, and detailed stereo imaging from atmospheric altitudes. These operations and the lessons learned from them could significantly benefit future aerial exploration of Mars and other worlds, NASA said.
“The fifth flight of the Mars Helicopter is another great achievement for the agency,” said Bob Pearce, Associate Administrator for NASA’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate, in the statement.
“The continuing success of Ingenuity proves the value of bringing together the strengths of diverse skill sets from across the agency to create the future, like flying an aircraft on another planet!” Pearce added.
The Ingenuity team chose the new landing site based on information gathered during the previous flight — the first “aerial scout” operation on another world — which enabled them to generate digital elevation maps indicating almost completely flat terrain with almost no obstructions, NASA said.
Having successfully landed at its new airfield, Ingenuity will await future instructions, relayed via Perseverance, from mission controllers.
NASA, on Friday, also reported recording of audio and video of the helicopter. On its fourth flight to the Red Planet, NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover used one of its two microphones to capture the humming sound of the blades of the Ingenuity helicopter and the din of wind.