We’re Getting Ready for Ingenuity’s Second Flight

NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter captured this shot as it hovered over the Martian surface on April 19, 2021, during the first instance of powered, controlled flight on another planet. It used its navigation camera, which autonomously tracks the ground during flight. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Written by MiMi Aung, Ingenuity Mars Helicopter Project Manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

With the first flight of Ingenuity a success, we’re looking toward our second taking place on April 22, which is the 18th of the 30 sols (Martian days) of our flight test window.

For this second flight test at “Wright Brothers Field,” we are targeting a takeoff time for 5:30 a.m. EDT (2:30 a.m. PDT), or 12:30 p.m. Local Mean Solar Time. But we’re looking to go a little bigger this time. On the first flight, Ingenuity hovered 10 feet (3 meters) above the surface. This time around, we plan to trying climbing to 16 feet (5 meters) in this flight test. Then, after the helicopter hovers briefly, it will go into a slight tilt and move sideways for 7 feet (2 meters). Then Ingenuity will come to a stop, hover in place, and make turns to point its color camera in different directions before heading back to the center of the airfield to land. Of course, all of this is done autonomously, based on commands we sent to Perseverance to relay to Ingenuity the night before.

The imagery of the first flight Perseverance captured with its Navcam and Mastcam-Z imagers from its vantage point about 210 feet (64 meters) away at “Van Zyl Overlook” was spectacular. We’re expecting more phenomenal imagery on this second flight test, which will come down beginning at approximately 9:21 a.m. EDT (6:21 a.m. PDT) that same day, April 22.

Every image we get of the helicopter on Mars is special to me: After all, this has never been done before. But I have to say that of all the images, perhaps the one that will stay with me the most is that image from the helicopter’s navigation camera: Taken when the rotorcraft was 1.2 meters in the air, the black-and-white image shows the shadow of our beloved Ingenuity, with her two rotors, over the surface of Wright Brothers Field. While it’s up to others to decide the image’s historical significance of this moment, when I first saw it, I immediately thought of the picture Buzz Aldrin took of his boot print on the lunar surface. That iconic image from Apollo 11 said “we walked on the Moon;”  ours says “we flew on another world.”