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NASA’s Ingenuity Mars helicopter reaches flight milestone

There’s just no stopping NASA’s plucky little Mars helicopter.

During its latest airborne adventure — its 57th on the red planet since April 2021 — Ingenuity reached a total flight time of 100 minutes.

During its milestone flight, NASA’s Mars helicopter traveled north for 713 feet (217 meters) for 129 seconds, reaching an altitude of 33 feet (10 meters) and a maximum speed of 3 miles per hour (4.8 kilometers per hour).

Ingenuity has flown more than 100 minutes on Mars!

The #MarsHelicopter completed Flight 57 over the weekend, traveling north for 713 ft (217 m) for 129 seconds. See the latest flight stats: https://t.co/7DMHj9KMYp pic.twitter.com/CYNzJ4IcEY

— NASA JPL (@NASAJPL) September 6, 2023

The aim of the flight was to reposition the helicopter while also capturing imagery of designated science targets, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which is overseeing the mission, said on its website.

To date, the furthest Ingenuity has flown in a single flight is 2,325 feet (708.9 meters) in a mission in April last year, while the longest it’s stayed airborne is 169.5 seconds in a flight in August 2021.

Ingenuity arrived on Mars with NASA’s Perseverance rover in February 2021 and the initial plan was to merely test the technology to see if the helicopter could get airborne in the planet’s much thinner atmosphere.

Its first hover nearly two-and-a-half years ago sent Ingenuity straight into the history books for becoming the first aircraft to perform powered, controlled flight on another planet.

Since then, the JPL team has pushed Ingenuity to the limit, sending it on a myriad of missions involving different speeds, distances, and altitudes, as well as launch and landing spots.

The 4-pound, 19-inch-high (1.8 kg/48 cm) helicopter has ended up assisting the ground-based Perseverance rover, gathering aerial imagery to help the team plan safe and efficient routes for the vehicle as it continues to explore Jezero Crater for signs of ancient microbial life.

Last month, JPL shared a video captured by Perseverance showing Ingenuity in the air.

Despite a few technical issues along the way, the helicopter has continued to impress and has even inspired NASA engineers to build a more complex version for future missions to Mars and possibly other planets, too.

With 100 minutes of flight time now under its belt, NASA will be keen to see just how much more the remarkable machine is able to give as it continues to buzz its way across the Martian surface.

Trevor Mogg
Contributing Editor
Not so many moons ago, Trevor moved from one tea-loving island nation that drives on the left (Britain) to another (Japan)…
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