Mars helicopter to attempt a more complex flight on Thursday

NASA has announced that its Ingenuity Mars helicopter will attempt a second, more complex flight on the red planet on Thursday, April 22.

The flight attempt will come just three days after Ingenuity became the first-ever aircraft to achieve powered, controlled flight on another planet.

In a tweet on Wednesday, NASA said Ingenuity’s second flight will involve the machine climbing to a height of five meters before tilting slightly and flying two meters sideways. Ingenuity will then come to a stop, hover in place, and make turns to point its color camera in different directions. After that, it’ll come in to land.

The Mars helicopter’s maiden flight involved only a hover, three meters above the Martian surface. NASA said previously that each of Ingenuity’s five flights will be increasingly complex, with the final one expected to see it fly a distance of up to 300 meters.

More to follow …

How do you top #MarsHelicopter’s historic first flight? Go bigger.

We’ll attempt a more challenging 2nd flight on April 22: 50-second flight time, climb to ~16 ft (5m), and 5º tilt to accelerate sideways ~7 ft (2m). We’ll update you here with the results.

— NASA JPL (@NASAJPL) April 21, 2021

Ingenuity’s flights are made autonomously, based on commands sent to the helicopter via the Perseverance rover. The rover and helicopter reached Mars together in dramatic fashion in February 2021 following a six-month journey from Earth.

NASA’s team at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which is overseeing the Mars mission, said Ingenuity’s rotors will be programmed to fire up at 5:30 a.m. ET (2:30 a.m. PT) on Thursday. NASA is yet to announce whether it will livestream the event on NASA TV in the same way that it did for the maiden flight earlier this week.

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