Ingenuity helicopter flies to Mars a second time, higher and longer

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Washington | NASA’s small helicopter Ingenuity managed a riskier second flight to Mars on Thursday, after making history Monday by becoming the first motorized craft to take to another planet, the US space agency said. .

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This flight, which lasted 51.9 seconds against 39.1 seconds Monday, associated “several new challenges” compared to the first, “in particular a higher maximum attitude, a longer duration and lateral movements”, noted NASA. in a press release.

Ingenuity took off at 5:33 a.m. (9:33 a.m. GMT), and rose to a height of five meters, while it had stopped at three meters on the previous flight and the aircraft made a lateral movement for the first time, fulfilling two of NASA’s ambitions.

Ingenuity helicopter flies to Mars a second time, higher and longer

“It sounds simple, but there are so many unknowns about how to fly a helicopter on Mars. That’s why we’re here, to find answers to these questions, ”explained Havard Grip, one of its remote pilots.

The data received seems to indicate that this second flight “lived up to expectations,” said Bob Balaram, chief engineer of the project.

“We have two flights to Mars under our belt, which means there is still a lot to learn this month with Ingenuity,” he added.

Other flights are planned, but the “lifespan” of Ingenuity will be “determined by the way it lands” each time, explained MiMi Aung, head of the helicopter project, claiming to want to “push our vehicle. to its limits ”.

The Ingenuity experiment will stop whatever happens after a month, to let the Perseverance rover, aboard which it arrived on Mars, devote itself to its main task: to search for traces of ancient life on the planet. red.