NASA has released a video taken by the Perseverance rover on Mars that shows its companion, the helicopter Ingenuity, in flight. Ingenuity performed a short flight into the air and back down to the martian surface on August 3, and the rover was near enough to capture footage of the flight using its Mastcam-Z imager.
The video shows Ingenuity’s 54th flight, which consisted of a simple takeoff, hover, and landing. The helicopter reached an altitude of 16 feet over a period of under 30 seconds, with the purpose of the flight being to check Ingenuity’s navigation system. This follows a recent incident in which NASA lost contact with the helicopter for one week due to issues sending signals over the area’s complex geography. Communications were established in time for flight 50, with the helicopter able to work as expected.
Ingenuity has proven remarkably hardy, even in the cold, dusty, inhospitable martian environment. The helicopter, which traveled inside the belly of the rover and touched down on the planet’s surface in 2020, was originally designed to perform just five flights as part of a test of the feasibility of flying on another planet. The helicopter exceeded all expectations, not only being able to fly and land accurately, but also continuing to work for an incredible 50-plus flights so far, despite challenges like the cold winter season, which limited the amount of power that could be collected by the helicopter’s solar panels.
Since the 54th flight shown in the video, Ingenuity performed its 55th flight on August 12. During that flight, the helicopter moved from its previous location called Airfield Omicron and traveled 866 feet over a period of around two-and-a-half minutes, taking it to a new location dubbed Airfield Pi. The helicopter is currently traveling close to the Perseverance rover and is scouting routes ahead to make driving easier and safer for the rover.
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