The Mars helicopter, Ingenuity, completed its ninth and most challenging flight yet, NASA announced on Twitter.
NASA added that Ingenuity flew for 166.4 seconds at a pace of five meters per second, setting new records as it also took pictures with its navigation camera.
The space agency noted that in Ingenuity’s historic first flight on April 19 it hovered some three meters above the Martian surface for 30 seconds.
Since then, NASA said it has “been progressively stretching the capabilities of the helicopter by flying farther, faster, and more aggressively.”
NASA said that even before the ninth flight, Ingenuity had already exceeded expectations, but described this latest effort as at a “new level with a high-speed flight across unfriendly terrain,” which went far away from the Perseverance rover.
Since the Perseverance rover is in a region characterized by sandy ripples that could be very challenging terrain for wheeled vehicles, Ingenuity was designed to take a shortcut straight across a portion of the region and land on a plain to the south.
In preparation for the flight, NASA explained its significance by saying that , “First, we believe Ingenuity is ready for the challenge, based on the resilience and robustness demonstrated in our flights so far. Second, this high-risk, high-reward attempt fits perfectly within the goals of our current operational demonstration phase. A successful flight would be a powerful demonstration of the capability that an aerial vehicle (and only an aerial vehicle) can bring to bear in the context of Mars exploration – traveling quickly across otherwise untraversable terrain while scouting for interesting science targets.”
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