The tiny NASA Ingenuity helicopter now has as many as 40 extraterrestrial flights behind. The 1.8-kilogram Ingenuity took off into the air on Thursday, January 19 and flew 178 meters in 92 seconds. As a result of a short flight, Ingenuity moved from the conditional Airfield Z point to Airfield Beta. During the flight, the helicopter “jumped” several sand dunes. The mission report can be found on the official website.
Ingenuity is a technology demonstrator designed to show that exploration of Mars from the air is possible, despite the thin and rarefied atmosphere of the planet. The main mission of the helicopter included only five flights. But then the helicopter moved on to an extended mission, during which it developed its flight capabilities and acted as a Perseverance scout. Aerial observations from a helicopter help the rover team identify potentially interesting scientific targets and choose the best routes through the uneven terrain in the crater.
Signs of life on Mars
Ingenuity landed in February 2021 together with the NASA Perseverance Mars rover inside the 45 km wide Jezero crater. Scientists believed that billions of years ago there was a large lake and a river delta in its place.
Perseverance is looking for signs of past Martian life in the area and is collecting dozens of samples that will be returned to Earth as early as 2033 as part of a joint NASA-European Space Agency campaign called Mars Sample Return. The plan assumes that Perseverance will deliver these samples to a NASA lander equipped with a rocket, which will return the material to Earth.
In the last few weeks, Perseverance has been storing titanium containers with samples in a kind of storage on the surface of the crater. The storage is a backup option in case something happens to the rover and its samples are lost. In this scenario, two small, Ingenuity-like helicopters will take samples from the backup storage.
Earlier we reported on how Ingenuity made the shortest flight of all time.
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