Days after making its first successful flight to Mars, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Ingenuity helicopter completed its second flight on 22 April. The Ingenuity helicopter took off at 5:33 a.m. during Eastern Daylight Time. According to NASA, the new flight lasted for 51.9 seconds, and the helicopter climbed to 5 meters. It had added several new challenges during the second flight like a higher maximum altitude, sideways movement, and longer duration.
Bob Balaram, the chief engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, said, “So far, the engineering telemetry we have received and analyzed tells us that the flight met expectations and our prior computer modelling 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”.
On comparing the two flights to Mars – flight one topped out at three meters above the surface, while the Ingenuity climbed to 5 meters on its second. As the helicopter floated for some time, its flight control system performed a slight (five-degree) tilt. With this slant, the thrust from the counter-rotating accelerated the craft sideways for two meters.
According to the JPL Nasa report, the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter mission is a high-risk and high-reward technology demonstration. Also, if Ingenuity was to face any difficulty during its 30-sol task, then NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover mission wouldn’t be impacted.
Reports also suggest that operating an aircraft in a controlled manner at Mars is far more difficult than flying on Earth.
The helicopter was built by JPL, which also succeeds this technology demonstration project for NASA Headquarters. The Ingenuity Mars Helicopter is a demonstration of a new aerial capability that NASA could use in the future. Currently, there are no plans to put a second helicopter on Mars. But the project’s chief engineer, Bob Balaram confirmed that his team has begun sketching out designs for a larger Mars helicopter capable of carrying some 10 pounds of science equipment.