Ingenuity’s First One-Way Trip
Contributed by Corrine Rojas
The Mars Helicopter, Ingenuity, has successfully completed its fifth flight, which was the first time the helicopter executed a one-way flight from the Wright Brothers Field to a new location. The above are two Mastcam-Z images (pre-flight, sol 75 and post-flight, sol 76, respectively), which helped provide confirmation to the Mastcam-Z and Ingenuity teams that the heli successfully landed at its new site. For scale, the rotorcraft is roughly 19 inches (0.49 meters) tall and the rotors are about 4 feet (1.2 meters) wide. The fifth flight consisted of flying about 423 feet (129 meters) southeast at a cruising altitude of 16 feet (5 meters), then hovering up to a 33 foot (10 meter) altitude and landing in its new location.
There may not be too much going on in these images, but they are among my favorites so far in this mission because they confirm a successful outcome to a risky remote maneuver on a distant planet. It’s easy to take these successes for granted because we consistently see incredible results. But to me, previous successes do not take away from the feelings of nervous excitement, and sometimes sheer anxiety, in the moments leading up to confirming a successful maneuver. The post-flight image was specifically sequenced to confirm that the helicopter landed right where it’s supposed to have landed, and provided me with relief that everything “executed nominally,” as we say.
Also, these specific images are from the fifth flight, which represented a transition from a victorious technology demonstration of operating an aircraft on a different planet to a more experimental demonstration phase. This includes scouting new workspace areas for the Perseverance Rover as well as areas that are too risky for the rover to navigate. Ingenuity demonstrated technology that can be later adapted to other aircraft exploration missions on Mars, and possibly other planets.
[Note: See the JPL/NASA story and Mastcam-Z movie (with SuperCam soundtrack!) about Ingenuity’s fifth flight here]
May 7, 2021