will make its third Red Planet flight this weekend, if all goes according to plan. Mars helicopter Ingenuity
The Ingenuity team is targeting early Sunday morning (April 25) for sortie number three. The flight plan calls for Ingenuity to get about 16.5 feet (5 meters) above the floor of Mars’ Jezero Crater, travel a total of 330 feet (100 m) and stay aloft for 80 seconds, chief pilot Håvard Grip of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory
(April 23). wrote in a blog post today Grip did not give an estimated liftoff time but did say that data and photos are expected to starting coming down to Earth around 10:16 a.m. EDT (1416 GMT) on Sunday.
Video: Zoom in on Ingenuity helicopter’s 1st flight on Mars
Ingenuity’s first two flights were not so involved. On its
, which occurred on Monday (April 19), Ingenuity went straight up and down, attained a maximum altitude of about 10 feet (3 m) and stayed aloft for 39.1 seconds. On Thursday (April 22), the solar-powered helicopter groundbreaking first flight , got more than 16.5 feet (5 m) high and moved laterally a total of 13 feet (4 m). remained airborne for nearly 52 seconds
During that second flight, Ingenuity snapped a photo of Jezero’s floor and the tracks made by its much larger partner, NASA’s
. It’s “the first color image of the Martian surface taken by an aerial vehicle while it was aloft,” NASA officials wrote in a caption for the newly unveiled photo, which Grip featured in his blog post today. (Ingenuity took photos during its first flight as well, but apparently only with its black-and-white navigation camera.) Perseverance rover
Ingenuity is a technology demonstration designed to show that aerial vehicles can operate on Mars. A successful flight campaign could
open the Red Planet’s skies to extensive exploration, NASA officials have said.
The helicopter landed with Perseverance on Feb. 18 and deployed from the rover on April 3 to prep for its month-long flight campaign, which ends in early May. The Ingenuity team aims to make a total of five flights during that span, with each one more ambitious than the last.
Mike Wall is the author of “ Out There ” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.