NASA's Mars helicopter exceeds all expectations

A photo of Mars taken from the NASA Mars helicopter - Ingenuity

NASA’s Mars helicopter took this picture of the red planet from a height of thirty-nine feet on 4 August. At the bottom centre of the image is the helicopter’s own shadow - Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech 

NASA’s Mars quadrotor Ingenuity has now successfully logged twelve flights for a total of nineteen minutes flying on the red planet. The most recent flight added 169 seconds to Ingenuity’s total flight time, the tiny rotorcraft travelling over 450m.

Originally, NASA had merely hoped that Ingenuity would simply prove that atmospheric flight is possible on Mars, ideally logging five flights. However, those initial expectations have now been widely surpassed.

The latest sortie — described by NASA as ‘ambitious’ — was planned to survey the South Seitah region of Jezero Crater in support of the mother ship Perseverance.

The terrain in the region is rugged, which makes conditions for both Ingenuity and Perseverance hazardous, but the risk is counterbalanced by the reward of collecting “intriguing rocks that Perseverance’s science team would love to study up close,” according to NASA.