NASA’s Ingenuity Helicopter Has Hit A New Milestone On Mars

NASA’s “little helicopter”, dubbed as Ingenuity, completed its 10th flight over Mars. This tiny rotorcraft initially landed with the Perseverance rover in February and completed its flight last week.

Ingenuity has always been doing daring tasks, and the last flight was no exception. On Saturday, it was the rotorcraft’s most dangerous flight to date. First, it climbed roughly 40 feet in the air, then headed southwest near “Raised Ridges,” a group of rock features. After that, it started flying about 310 feet west of its initial take-off site.

Before the last flight, Ingenuity soared approximately one mile overall, so its 10th flight helped pass that mark.

The flight continued for 2 minutes, 45 seconds. Ingenuity is expected to have taken photos all along the way while seeing 10 distinct waypoints.

The recent flight is considered a major milestone in the history of ingenuity’s flights.  It has now gone to the Red Planet more than NASA initially intended. Although because of Ingenuity’s endurance, the engineers expected it to crash after its fourth or fifth flight.  However, it has not stopped ever since. Even during its sixth flight in May, it faltered mid-air but somehow landed back safe and sound.

Ingenuity was primarily developed as a technology exhibit; however, it started a secondary mission after its fourth flight. Since then, it has been exploring the undiscovered Martian terrains and landscapes. Recently, Ingenuity has explored unexamined areas of Mars’ Jezero Crater – a 28-mile-wide (45 kilometre) basin that was once filled with water.

Ingenuity’s ninth flight, known as a “nail-biter”, was another tough mission. The scientists named it so since the helicopter had to go over a wide variety of treacherous terrain.

To explore such uneven landscapes is somewhat a challenge for the tissue box-sized ingenuity, but it has always exceeded the expectations.

During Ingenuity’s first four flights, its landing site was the same as its take-off location. However, around its fifth flight, it touched down a new airfield that it had earlier mapped. All these recent flights have made ingenuity to travel south over the unexplored new territory.

Are Ingenuity’s missions ever going to end? Well, NASA hasn’t stipulated yet; however, it says that the helicopter could keep flying as long as it remains active and doesn’t meddle with the working of the Perseverance rover.

Perseverance Rover is set to scour Jezero Crater to find fossils of ancient alien microbes. Ingenuity’s can help it map terrain, spot potential areas from the air, and fly to places the rover cannot.

NASA is currently intrigued by “Raised Ridges”, and Ingenuity also took colour images of intriguing rocky ridges that Perseverance might assess later.

“We’re hoping the colour images will provide the closest look yet at ‘Pilot Pinnacle,’ a location featuring outcrops that some team members think may record some of the deepest water environments in old Lake Jezero,” NASA scientists wrote in a blog post.

“It’s possible, though, that Perseverance’s tight schedule won’t allow it to visit the rocks, so Ingenuity may offer the only opportunity to study these deposits in any detail,” the scientists said.

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