Ingenuity reached a record flight speed on Mars

NASA’s Ingenuity Helicopter flew over the surface of Mars faster than ever. During its 62nd flight over the Red Planet, the unmanned aerial vehicle reached a speed of 10 m/s (36 km/h), breaking the previous speed record of 8 m/s (28.8 km/h), set two flights earlier, at the end of last month. 

Ingenuity flight on Mars. Illustration:

This is another achievement of the NASA team from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, which oversees the current mission to Mars, which also involves the Perseverance rover. 

Ingenuity first rose into the Martian sky in April 2021, becoming the first aircraft to make a controlled flight on another planet. However, the first flight was a simple hover. However, since then, a helicopter weighing 1.8 kg and 50 cm high has made one flight to a record distance of 708.9 meters, proving that it can work stably in an atmosphere much more rarefied than Earth’s.

Ingenuity obtained this image using a navigation camera, which is mounted in the fuselage of the helicopter and pointed straight down to monitor the surface during flight. This image was obtained on October 5, 2023 (Sol 933 of the Perseverance rover mission). Authorship: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The total duration of the Ingenuity flight for 62 flights is 113 minutes. This was achieved during flights over a total distance of 14.5 km. The highest altitude it reached during these flights was 24 meters. This allowed it to take aerial photographs, which were useful to the Perseverance team in search of the safest and most efficient routes for the ground rover.

Continuation of the Perseverance mission

The main goal of the current mission to Mars is to search for evidence of ancient life. With Ingenuity, Perseverance uses its set of scientific tools to collect and store rock and soil samples that will be collected by the next mission and delivered to Earth for more detailed analysis. 

It also collects data on conditions on the planet to help NASA better prepare for the first manned mission to Mars, which can take place in the 2030s. The success of the Ingenuity project means that space agency engineers will work on creating more advanced versions of the miniature helicopter for future missions to Mars and possibly to other planets. 

Earlier we reported on how the Martian helicopter resumed flights after an emergency landing.

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