Now, I know what you’re thinking, didn’t Ingenuity have its first flight a few days ago? Yes but that time it just flew vertically and hovering in the same place for a few seconds. But now the little helicopter made history again by flying properly for 52 seconds before descending safely back to red dirt.
The test took place on Mars, in an area called “Wright Brother’s Field” at 5:33 am EDT. The test was done autonomously as part of the 30-day test program. So except more tests like these in the future but it’s the early ones that are important. During the whole 52 seconds of flight, the Ingenuity helicopter was recorded by the Perseverance rover, and all the telemetry was relayed back to Mission Control at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.
The cute little Ingenuity helicopter reached an altitude of 16 feet and then proceeded to tilt its rotors by 5 degrees, generating a thrust that propelled the craft for a horizontal distance of 7 feet. It then hovered in place and turned in different directions for its onboard camera, then returned to the center of the field before descending for a soft and easy landing.
You can check out the little chopper’s antics in this video below.
The helicopter has been built to support the Perseverance Rover in its shenanigans but isn’t a key part of the Mars mission. This is because it’s very hard to sustain flight in Mar’s atmosphere. Engineers have to worry about factors like the tenuous atmosphere, low gravity, and freezing nighttime temperatures.
According to Bob Balaram, Chief Engineer for the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter at JPL, “So far, the engineering telemetry we have received and analyzed tells us that the flight met expectations and our prior computer modeling has been accurate. We have two flights of Mars under our belts, which means that there is still a lot to learn during this month of Ingenuity”.
So when are strapping lasers on these two Mars machines to see who wins in a robot royale.