Skip to main content

NASA’s Mars helicopter still working fine after month-long break

NASA’s Mars helicopter, Ingenuity, has taken to the skies again following a month-long break in communications with Earth.

The drone-like flying machine flew for 393 meters and stayed in the air for more than two minutes. Showing no signs of trouble following its extended period on the ground, the helicopter also reached an altitude of 39 feet (11.9 meters) and hit a top speed of 11.9 mph (5,4 meters per second).

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which operates Ingenuity, revealed news of the aircraft’s 67th flight in a post on social media:

Success!

Ingenuity completed Flight 67 over the weekend, flying 393 meters for more than two minutes. The #MarsHelicopter repositioned itself to get ready for future flights. https://t.co/1CXIWdYIAQ pic.twitter.com/EssZi3LEEF

— NASA JPL (@NASAJPL) December 4, 2023

The suspension of flights was due to a break in communications between the Ingenuity team and the helicopter caused by the sun coming between Earth and Mars.

The so-called “solar conjunction” happens every couple of years, so this is the second time it will affect NASA’s latest Mars mission, including the Perseverance rover. NASA’s other Mars vehicles- the Curiosity rover and three Mars orbiters- have been operating on and near the planet for much longer and have experienced multiple solar conjunctions.

Ingenuity has exceeded initial expectations since becoming the first aircraft to perform powered, controlled flight on a planet other than Earth in April 2021.

In fact, it’s impressed NASA so much that it wants to design more advanced aircraft for future missions on Mars and other planets.

Ingenuity arrived on Mars as a technology demonstration, but after proving itself, the JPL team deployed it to gather aerial imagery of the Martian surface using the aircraft’s on-board camera. This imagery has been used to help map safe and efficient routes for the ground-based Perseverance rover, an advantage not available to earlier Mars missions such as Curiosity, Spirit, and Opportunity.

Perseverance continues to explore the Martian surface for evidence of ancient microbial life, with scientists aiming to send some of the rover’s collections of rock and soil to Earth for closer analysis.

Editors' Recommendations

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)…
NASA’s Mars helicopter forced to cut short latest flight
NASA's Ingenuity helicopter.

NASA’s Mars helicopter has now completed an impressive 71 flights on the red planet since its first hover there in April 2021.

While most of the flights have taken place without any difficulties, the latest one was cut short after Ingenuity’s navigation system found it difficult to cope with the “relatively featureless terrain,” which consisted of “sand ripples with few or no rocks,” according to a social media post by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which is overseeing the mission.

Read more
NASA’s Mars helicopter just flew a colossal distance
NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter acquired this image on May 22, 2021 using its black and white navigation camera. This camera is mounted in the helicopter’s fuselage and pointed directly downward to track the ground during flight.

NASA’s plucky Ingenuity helicopter has just completed its 69th flight on Mars, setting a new distance record in the process.

The 4-pound, 19-inch-tall helicopter flew a colossal 2,315 feet (705 meters) on Wednesday, edging past its previous record of 2,310 feet (704 meters) set in April 2022. That's like flying nine blocks north from Manhattan's Times Square to 54th Street.

Read more
Perseverance joins the 1,000-sols club on Mars, gets congratulated by Curiosity
NASA's Perserverance Mars rover.

NASA's Perseverance rover has reached 1,000 Mars sols after arriving on the faraway planet in February 2021.

The rover, NASA’s most advanced to date, announced the achievement in a post on social media on Tuesday, adding: “My work is far from done.”

Read more