NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter made its fifth flight to the Red Planet on May 8, making its first one-way trip from the Wright Brothers Field to its new location (an airfield, one might say) 129 meters south. Upon arriving over its new airfield, Ingenuity ascended 10 meters and took high-resolution color images of its new habitat before landing.
The flight represented a transition to the stage of demonstrating new operations. This phase will focus on exploring the possibilities a rotorcraft operating from Mars can provide. Including reconnaissance, aerial observations of areas inaccessible to the rover, and detailed stereo images from atmospheric heights. These will bring significant benefits in the future aerial exploration of Mars and other worlds.
“The fifth Mars Helicopter flight is another great achievement for the agency. Ingenuity’s continued success proves the value of combining the strengths of diverse skillsets from across the agency to create a future like flying a helicopter on another planet!”
Bob Pierce, NASA Space Research Assistant Administrator
The flight began at 3:26 pm ET (12:26 pm PT; 12:33 pm local time on Mars) and lasted 108 seconds. The Ingenuity team selected the new landing site based on information gathered during the previous flight, the first aerial reconnaissance operation in another world, which allowed them to create digital elevation maps showing almost completely flat terrain without obstacles.
Likewise, NASA is seeking, through Ingenuity, to learn more about how next-generation helicopter operations can benefit future exploration of the Red Planet. This new phase will bring additional risk to Ingenuity through more one-way flights and more precise maneuvering.
Having successfully landed at its new airfield, Ingenuity will await further instructions via Perseverance from the mission controllers. The agency’s fifth rover to Planet Four is also heading south to the region, where it will begin research and sample collection. The immediate strategy does not require further long travel, which would leave the helicopter far away, allowing Ingenuity to continue demonstrating operations.