Mars helicopter Ingenuity breaks records on 49th flight
NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter has been flying to Mars for almost two years now, and it’s still breaking records.
Ingenuity flew faster and higher than ever before on its latest flyby of the Red Planet, which took place on Sunday (April 2).
The 4-pound (1.8-kilogram) helicopter reached a top speed of 14.5 mph (23.3 km/h) and a top height of 52.5 feet (16 meters) on Sunday, according to the mission’s flight log (opens in new tab). The previous records were 13.4 mph (21.6 km/h) and 46 feet (14 m), respectively.
Related: 12 amazing photos from the Perseverance Rover’s first year on Mars
Two new records for #MarsHelicopter! Ingenuity successfully completed Flight 49, setting a new airspeed record of 14.5 mph (6.5 m/s) and an altitude record of 52.5 ft (16 meters). See more stats: https://t.co/7DMHj9LkNX pic.twitter.com/Od4jXGS8QEA April 3, 2023
Ingenuity landed with NASA’s Perseverance rover on the floor of Mars’ Crater Lake in February 2021. On April 19 of that year, Ingenuity took to the skies of the Red Planet for the first time, executing a 39-second flyby that did not covered no horizontal distance.
The small helicopter made four more flights over the next several weeks, fulfilling its primary technology demonstration mission, which was to show that powered aerial exploration is possible on Mars, despite the thinness of the planet’s atmosphere.
And then Ingenuity just kept flying, on an extended mission during which it’s serving as a scout for the life-seeking Persistence and collecting samples. Sunday’s move was Ingenuity’s 49th, and flight 50 is likely just around the corner.
Over the course of 49 Mars flybys to date, Ingenuity has stayed aloft for a total of 86.7 minutes and covered 6,974 miles (11,224 km) of the Red Planet’s soil, according to the flight log. Meanwhile, Perseverance’s odometer currently reads 10.67 miles (opens in new tab) (17.17 km).
The 28-mile-wide (45 km) lake hosted a lake and a river delta in the ancient past, which is the main reason NASA chose the crater for the Persistence mission.
The rover is collecting dozens of samples that will be returned to Earth by a joint NASA-European Space Agency campaign, possibly as early as 2033.
Mike Wall is the author of Out There (opens in new tab) (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall (opens in new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab) or Facebook (opens in new tab).