NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter, which is scurrying Mars for signs of ancient life, completed record-breaking 25 flights in the tenuous atmosphere. When the tiny helicopter was sent to the one-way trip, along with its partner Perseverance rover, engineers had only planned for five flights. While space agencies usually set their goals conservatively to maximise their output, Ingenuity has surpassed expectations by continuing to send valuable data from the Red Planet to the ground stations. But that’s not all! Ingenuity achieved other milestones during its 25th flight.
On April 8, when the flight took off, the helicopter flew farther and faster than ever before. It broke records for both distance and speed, soaring 704 metres high, up to 5.5 metres per second. Ingenuity‘s black-and-white navigation camera captured some “breathtaking” imagery during the flight. NASA engineers have stitched them together into a video, showing a robotic helicopter’s-eye view of a flight across Mars.
Ingenuity has undertaken some more flights since the 25th one. It is currently preparing for its 29th flight, NASA stated.
Ingenuity team lead Teddy Tzanetos said the helicopter’s navigation camera provided them with “a breathtaking sense” of what it would feel like gliding above the surface of Mars during the record-breaking flight.
The video begins about one second into the flight. The helicopter goes southwest after reaching a height of 10 metres, attaining top speed in less than three seconds.
Watch the video here:
According to NASA, Ingenuity’s flights are autonomous. Its handlers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) plan the flights and send commands to the rover, which relays those commands to the helicopter.
Last year, NASA extended the Mars mission of the rover-helicpoter duo indefinitely. On its extended life, the helicopter sometimes faces technical issues. Recently, Ingenuity had lost communication with mission controllers for the first time in its one year of operation. But the issue was promptly rectified.