Heading North Into Séítah: Ingenuity Mars Helicopter Continues Its Journey Back to Wright Brothers Field

Mars Helicopter Sol 133 – Color Camera​: NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter acquired this image during its 9th flight. Flight 17 will fly by this terrain again and land near the upper right corner of the image. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

With Flight 17, Ingenuity continues its journey back to Wright Brothers Field at the Octavia E. Butler landing site. Flight 17 is the third flight of this journey and is scheduled to take place no earlier than Sunday, December 5 with the data arriving back on Earth no earlier than later that same day. 

Flight 17 is approximately half of Flight 9 in reverse, which was one of the most challenging flights for Ingenuity to date. The crossing of the “Séítah” region of Mars’ Jezero Crater will take at least two flights, with a stop halfway across. This stop is necessary for two reasons. Ingenuity’s reduced flight time, because of higher rotor RPMs, means that Ingenuity would need to fly faster to cover the same distance. Flying faster increases the navigation uncertainty built up during a flight, which means larger landing ellipses are required. By flying slower, Ingenuity can better target a landing site in South Séítah.

The second reason is that the terrain on the eastern side of South Séítah is more hazardous than the western side. During flight 9, we knew Ingenuity would have a larger uncertainty in the landing location, but that was acceptable since the area was relatively benign. This is not the case this time around. With two flights, Ingenuity can better target safe landing sites on the eastern side of Séítah, without excessive risk on landing.

During Flight 17, Ingenuity is expected to fly 187 meters at an altitude of 10 meters and be airborne for 117 seconds. 

Written by Gerik Kubiak, Ingenuity Mars Helicopter Flight Software Lead at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

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