Skip to main content

NASA's Mars helicopter Ingenuity will attempt its 2nd flight Thursday

NASA's Ingenuity helicopter is seen during its first flight on Mars on April 19, 2021, in this view from the Perseverance rover's Navigation Camera, or Navcam.
NASA's Ingenuity helicopter is seen during its first flight on Mars on April 19, 2021, in this view from the Perseverance rover's Navigation Camera, or Navcam. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

NASA's Mars helicopter Ingenuity is ready for another epic Red Planet flight.

Ingenuity, which arrived on Mars with NASA's Perseverance rover in February and made history Monday (April 19) with the first-ever powered flight on another world, will attempt its second flight Thursday (April 22) at 5:30 a.m. EDT (0930 GMT), MiMi Aung, Ingenuity project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, wrote in a status update.

"We're looking to go a little bigger this time," Aung wrote in the update. While Monday's flight involved Ingenuity hovering 10 feet (3 meters) above the Red Planet's surface, Thursday's flight will see Ingenuity go a bit higher, to 16 feet (5 m), Aung said. Ingenuity will then tilt slightly and move sideways for 7 feet (2 m), hover in place and turn a few times so that its color camera can snap some images before returning to its Martian airfield for a landing, she added.

Related: More Mars helicopters? NASA is already thinking about Ingenuity's successors

Join our Mars talk!

Join our forums here to discuss the Perseverance rover and Ingenuity helicopter on Mars. What do you hope they find?

According to Aung, the images from Ingenuity's second flight should begin to arrive at approximately 9:21 a.m. EDT (1321 GMT). 

"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," Aung said. "We're expecting more phenomenal imagery on this second flight test."

NASA has not yet announced any live webcasts to reveal the imagery from Ingenuity's second flight, as it did with the first flight on Monday. Images will be posted on NASA's Ingenuity page when they come in. 

Related: Watch NASA's Mars helicopter Ingenuity kick up dust on its 1st flight (video)

This map shows where NASA's Ingenuity team is testing the Mars helicopter, annotated to show the locations for the Perseverance rover's landing site (also known as "Octavia E. Butler Landing"), the airfield (which NASA has dubbed "Wright Brothers Field") and the flight zone. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona)

After Thursday's flight, Aung and her colleagues plan to fly the Mars helicopter at least three more times in the coming two weeks, with each flight getting more complex and ambitious. 

And Ingenuity does everything autonomously. Due to the signal delay between Earth and Mars, Ingenuity team members cannot control the helicopter in real-time; all of its maneuvers must be programmed in advance. 

NASA will beam the commands for Ingenuity's Thursday flight to the Perseverance rover on Wednesday night. The helicopter is scheduled to take off at 5:30 a.m. EDT (0930 GMT), but it will take about four hours for NASA to receive data and images from the flight.

Email Hanneke Weitering at hweitering@space.com or follow her on Twitter @hannekescience. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at: community@space.com.

Hanneke Weitering

SPACE.COM EDITOR — Hanneke joined the team at Space.com in August 2016 as a staff writer and producer. She has previously written for Scholastic, MedPage Today and Oak Ridge National Lab. After studying physics at the University of Tennessee in her home town of Knoxville, she earned her graduate degree in Science, Health and Environmental Reporting (SHERP) from New York University. She is currently based in Seattle, home of the Space Needle.