Story at a glance
- Ingenuity carried out the farthest and fastest flight yet.
- Friday’s success came one day after the helicopter failed to lift off as planned due to a software error.
- The next phase will prioritize the Perseverance rover and how Ingenuity can assist the rover’s mission to study Mars and its search for ancient microbial life.
NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter is continuing to see success on Mars.
The 4-pound helicopter on Friday afternoon successfully executed its fourth flight on the red planet, going farther and faster than ever before.
The aircraft carried out a 873-foot round trip flight at a height of 16 feet for two minutes to collect aerial images of a new landing site before returning to the airfield where Ingenuity’s been carrying out its previous flights.
Success #MarsHelicopter completed its 4th flight, going farther & faster than ever before. It also took more photos as it flew over the Martian surface. We expect those images will come down in a later data downlink, but @NASAPersevere's Hazcam caught part of the flight. pic.twitter.com/Fx3UHu4jgv— NASA JPL (@NASAJPL) April 30, 2021
The success came one day after the helicopter failed to lift off as planned due to a software error.
For its fifth flight planned within the next week, the chopper will embark on a one-way trip to the new landing site. Ingenuity will conduct up to six test flights before entering the next phase of its mission.
NASA’s Ingenuity team at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) on Friday said Ingenuity will transition into a new demonstration phase if its fifth flight is also successful.
The next phase will prioritize the Perseverance rover and how Ingenuity can assist the rover’s mission to study Mars and its search for ancient microbial life.
“The helicopter can use these opportunities to perform aerial observations of rover science targets, potential rover routes, and inaccessible features while also capturing stereo images for digital elevation maps,” NASA said in a statement Friday.
Ingenuity made history earlier this month by carrying out the first-ever controlled flight of an aircraft on another planet. As the gravity on Mars is about one-third of that on Earth’s, getting the helicopter off the ground is challenging as Mars’s atmosphere is about 1 percent the density of Earth at its surface.
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