NASA’s Ingenuity chopper completed its 12th mission on Mars early Tuesday, scouting out the Martian landscape for the Perseverance land rover.
The 4-pound autonomous aircraft flew over the Red Planet’s South Seitah region for 169 seconds, covering a total distance of 1,476 feet round trip at a height of approximately 33 feet, according to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory on Twitter.
“A dozen for the record!” it exclaimed. “The most recent flight of the Mars helicopter took us to the geological wonder that is the ‘South Seitah’ region.”
The California-based JPL, a federally funded research and development center run by NASA and the California Institute of Technology, explained the chopper is conducting aerial scouting and captured images aiming to help the team behind NASA’s Persevere determine which boulders, rocky outcrops and other geologic features “may be worthy of further scrutiny” by the land rover.
Flight 12 was to be similar to Flight 10 in that Ingenuity was to perform scouting duties of a surface feature called “Raised Ridges” but members of Ingenuity’s team said in a blog post prior to liftoff without elaborating that it could have “more impactful results.”
Ten color photographs were to be taken, the team leaders said.
The flight, they added, was to come with substantial risk due to the region’s varied terrain and Ingenuity’s navigation system being intended for flights across flat land, but what could be gained from the endeavor was worth the risk.
“Knowing that we have the opportunity to help the Perseverance team with science planning by providing unique aerial footage is all the motivation needed,” they said.
Perseverance is moving northwest across the southern ridge of Seitah and is expected to meet up with Ingenuity in the coming days, the JPL said.
The helicopter landed upon Mars in February while attached to the underside of the Perseverance rover, and took its median flight on April 19, climbing to about 10 feet before completing a turn and descending back to the planet’s surface.
Since then, Ingenuity has logged more than 20 minutes in Martian air, covering more than 1.2 nautical miles.