NASA's experimental Mars Ingenuity helicopter propelled its way to space exploration history, reaching new heights in its expedition on the Red Planet.
NASA Mars Helicopter: Ingenuity's Most 'Nerve-Wracking' Flight
The US space agency announced on Monday that Ingenuity made its most difficult, "nerve-wracking" flight on Mars, its ninth. The helicopter remained on flight for 166.4 seconds, flying fast with a record-setting 11 miles per second.
#MarsHelicopter pushes its Red Planet limits. 🚁— NASA JPL (@NASAJPL) July 5, 2021
The rotorcraft completed its 9th and most challenging flight yet, flying for 166.4 seconds at a speed of 5 m/s. Take a look at this shot of Ingenuity’s shadow captured with its navigation camera. https://t.co/TNCdXWcKWE pic.twitter.com/zUIbrr7Qw9
The announcement underscored the resilience and toughness of the four-pound (1.8 kilograms) Mars helicopter, which had overcome several problems along the way-- including a software glitch and an in-flight anomaly in its sixth flight that made it tilt back and forth in an oscillating pattern while in-flight, Cnet noted.
NASA declared before the flight that the Ingenuity will try unprecedented feats in this trip, which is an audacious "high-speed flight across unfriendly terrain" to do scouting missions for its trusty mate, the Perseverance rover.
NASA Mars Helicopter Photos: Ingenuity Explores Sandy Seitah Region
Ingenuity explored the Martian Jezero Crater, which is named Seitah, on the rugged eastern edge of the Red Planet. The risk of a slowdown for the rover is quite high in the area due to the sandy dunes, NASA further said in a UPI report. The Ingenuity flight assisted the Perseverance rover science team with detailed, stunning images of the Seitah region.
The flight also challenged the Ingenuity's on-board navigation systems that utilizes the images of the terrain to verify its flight route. NASA clarified that the Ingenuity was not designed to "accommodate high slopes and undulations" on the Seitah terrain.
Once Ingenuity completes its exploration of the Seitah area, it will then move on to probe another location named Raised Ridges for potential scientific work, Mars mission deputy project scientist Ken Willford told UPI.
With its mission to find out if life did exist on Mars, Ingenuity is scouting on that end, Willford further said. Using the little spacecraft, researchers could get a better view of the Martian rocks and analyze them for scientific value before having the rover reach the area.
NASA Mars Helicopter: Ingenuity Mission Extended
The mission that included the Ingenuity helicopter tucked away in the Perseverance rover's belly was launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida on July 30, 2020 and landed on Mars last February 18. Perseverance then deployed the helicopter last April 19 for its historic first-ever powered and controlled flight on another planet.
While it was originally planned as a five-month mission, the Ingenuity made extra flights, with NASA extending the expedition further as it helps the Perseverance rover in geology and astrobiology experiments, Space.com reported. Due to safety concerns on the rover's exploration options, the chopper will scale through those areas to assure a scientifically productive mission.
On the Seitah terrain, Ingenuity will take shortcut through a portion of the region and on a plain on the south. In its sortie, Ingenuity will capture aerial color images of the ripples and rocks it passes over, NASA further said.