NASA's Mars Ingenuity helicopter breaks records once again

The off-world chopper flew to its highest altitude and speed on its 49th mission on the Red Planet.
Chris Young
NASA's Ingenuity helicopter on Mars.
NASA's Ingenuity helicopter on Mars.

NASA / JPL-Caltech / ASU / MSSS 

NASA's record-breaking Mars Ingenuity helicopter has soared to new heights and flown faster.

The off-world helicopter has flown for almost two years, massively exceeding its original mission parameters.

On its latest flight, Sunday, April 2, Ingenuity flew to its highest altitude yet and faster than on any of its previous missions. The latest flight

Ingenuity soars to new heights

Ingenuity flew to a maximum altitude of 52.5 feet (16 meters) on its latest mission, reaching a top speed of 14.5 mph (23.3 kph), according to NASA's Ingenuity mission flight log. Before the Sunday mission, the fastest Ingenuity had flown 13.4 mph (21.6 kph), and its highest altitude was 46 feet (14 m).

Ingenuity reached Mars aboard NASA's Perseverance rover in February 2021. On April 19 that same year, Ingenuity performed the first-ever off-world controlled rotorcraft flight.

NASA designed Ingenuity to show that controlled flight was possible on Mars and to demonstrate that future missions could use drone-like aircraft to explore the Solar System. NASA originally intended the small 4-pound (1.8 kilograms) chopper to fly five times.

However, after its first few flights, NASA found the helicopter far exceeded expectations, and the space agency started using it as an aerial scout for the Perseverance rover as it makes its way around the Jezero Crater on Mars in search of signs of ancient microbial life.

Ingenuity's 50th mission is likely just around the corner

Sunday's mission was Ingenuity's 49th flight since it first landed on Mars. Given the number of missions it has carried out since April 2021, the off-world helicopter will likely perform its 50th mission very soon.

NASA notes that Ingenuity has flown a total of 86.7 minutes and covered 6.974 miles (11.224 km) of Martian ground.

The Perseverance mission has collected numerous samples from Mars on its mission to find traces of microbial Marcian life. These will eventually be returned to Earth at some point in the 2030s via NASA and ESA's Mars Sample Return mission.

The data collected by Perseverance and Ingenuity is also helping scientists today to understand the Jezero Crater on Mars better, providing a better understanding of its evolution from an ancient lakebed that may have harbored life to the dry, rocky terrain we see today.

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