Ingenuity helicopter sets altitude record on 35th Mars flight
NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter continues to raise the bar for Red Planet flight.
4-pound (1.8 kilograms) Resourcefulness soared 46 feet (14 meters) above the red finger of Mars on Saturday (Dec. 3), setting a new altitude record on its 35th flight beyond Earth.
The previous record for a small helicopter was 39 feet (12 m), achieved on three previous occasions Mars flights. (You can get an overview of all 35 Ingenuity flights in the mission flight log (opens in new tab).)
All time high for #MarsHelicopter! Ingenuity completed Flight 35 over the weekend and set a new maximum altitude record, reaching 46 feet (14 meters) above the surface of Mars. See more stats in the flight log: https://t.co/7DMHj9LkNX pic.twitter.com/qAj5H9Z68CDecember 6, 2022
Ingenuity landed with NASA Persistence rover on the floor of The crater lake in February 2021. The helicopter soon deployed from the rover’s belly and began a campaign to show that powered flight was possible in thin Martian atmosphere.
This initial technology demonstration phase lasted less than a month and consisted of only five flights. But NASA soon granted Ingenuity a mission extension, keeping the rotorcraft flying. Its current goals are focused on crossing the Red Planet’s flight envelope and conducting reconnaissance for Perseverance.
The rover is looking for traces of antiquity Life on Mars at the bottom of the 28-mile (45-kilometer) wide Jezero, which hosted a lake and river delta billions of years ago. Perseverance is also collecting and caching a series of samples that a joint NASA-European Space Agency campaign will return to Earth, possibly as early as 2033.
Saturday’s flight was Ingenuity’s first since Nov. 22 and only the second flown by a major software update. This update, which took several weeks to install, “provides Ingenuity with two major new capabilities: avoiding landing hazards and using digital altitude maps to aid navigation,” mission team members wrote blog post late last month (opens in new tab).
Ingenuity covered about 49 feet (15 m) of horizontal distance in Saturday’s flight, which lasted 52 seconds. The copter has now traveled a total of 24,302 feet (7,407 m) and stayed in the air for 59.9 minutes on its 35 Mars flights, according to the mission log.
Mike Wall is the author of “There (opens in new tab)” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Carl Tate), a book about the search for extraterrestrial life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall (opens in new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab) and on Facebook (opens in new tab).
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