Story at a glance
- NASA announced this week that it has extended flight operations for its Ingenuity Mars Helicopter.
- The announcement comes a week after the 18-inch-tall helicopter completed its 21st flight on Mars.
- In the future, Ingenuity will help NASA’s Perseverance rover explore a dry river delta in Mars’ Jezero crater.
NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter will keep making trips at least through September.
The tiny chopper hitched a ride to Mars on the Perseverance Rover in the summer of 2020 and landed on the planet’s Jezero crater in February of the following year.
A few months later, Ingenuity made history as the first aircraft to ever complete a powered and controlled flight on another planet on April 19, 2021.
Since then, Ingenuity has made 21 successful trips on the Red Planet with the NASA announcement that flights will continue until the fall coming shortly after its most recent flight.
Ingenuity’s 21st successful flight is the first of three trips needed for the helicopter to reach its next staging station located in the northwestern area of the planet’s “Séítah” region, according to NASA.
In the months to come, the compact aircraft will help the Perseverance rover’s upcoming exploration of the Jezero crater’s river delta. Once Ingenuity meets up with Perseverance, its first task will be to figure out which of the two dry river channels the rover should take during its journey to the top of the delta, NASA said.
Along the way, Ingenuity will also continue to test its own capabilities to “support the design” of future Mars aircraft, according to a statement from NASA.
“Less than a year ago we didn’t even know if powered, controlled flight of an aircraft at Mars was possible,” Thomas Zurbuchen, the associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, said in a statement.
“Now, we are looking forward to Ingenuity’s involvement in Perseverance’s second science campaign. Such a transformation of mindset in such a short period is simply amazing, and one of the most historic in the annals of air and space exploration.”
READ MORE STORIES FROM CHANGING AMERICA