x
Breaking News
More () »

Tampa Bay and Sarasota's Leading Local News: Weather, Traffic, Sports and more | Tampa Bay and Sarasota, FL | WTSP.com

NASA details plans for future Mars helicopter flights

The four-pound rotocraft will be pushed to its limits, and possibly beyond.

After NASA's history-making moment of successfully completing the first powered, controlled flight on another planet, the space agency is already looking toward what comes next. 

And with only two weeks left in their limited mission duration of 31 Earth days, crews are working against the clock. 

In the upcoming days, Ingenuity Project Manager MiMi Aung says NASA's Mars helicopter will conduct up to four additional flights that will get increasingly more difficult.

“We really want to push the rotocraft flights to the limit and really learn and get information back from that," Aung said.

Ingenuity will reach new heights with its second flight attempt tentatively targeted for Thursday, April 22. NASA officials say the four-pound helicopter will fly 16 feet into the air, travel 6 feet, fly back to its initial liftoff site and then land.

The third flight will take a similar structure, except it will travel 164 feet away from the initial liftoff site before returning and landing.

If NASA reaches its last two test flights, there is one final goal-- push the envelope. 

“We’re putting the pedal down and we’re going for it," Thomas Zurbuchen, Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate said.

It still is not clear exactly how far Ingenuity will be pushed while the rotocraft's team is still processing data from its first flight, but NASA says it will go high, further and faster. 

By pushing Ingenuity to reach its limits, NASA will be able to learn the entire scope of the helicopter's capabilities ahead of sending our future generations of helicopters into the universe. 

But for now, the space agency is focused on the "extremely healthy" Ingenuity as Zurbuchen says there is nothing set in stone for a second helicopter to make the trek to Mars.

You can watch the  "high-risk, high reward" moment that was more than six years in the making below:

What other people are reading right now:

►Breaking news and weather alerts: Get the free 10 Tampa Bay app

Stay In the Know! Sign up now for the Brightside Blend Newsletter