Ingenuity, NASA’s Mars helicopter, has began scouting missions for the Perseverance rover, completing its ninth and most difficult trip yet.
NASA proclaimed the success of the “most challenging flight yet” on Twitter on Monday.
Fly nine contained a speed record for the aeroplane of about 11 miles per hour, which NASA described as “a high-speed flight across unfriendly terrain, which will take us far away from the rover.”
Ingenuity studied a region of the Martian Jezero Crater known as the Sétah, where the rover might become entangled in sand dunes, NASA stated in a flight plan description.
The space agency planned the flight to help the rover science team with “close-up images of the Séítah terrain that they will otherwise be unable to acquire” to plan the rover’s path.
The trip also tested the capabilities of Ingenuity’s on-board navigation systems, which rely on images of the landscape to validate the flight path. According to NASA, the system is not built to “accommodate high slopes and undulations” like those found in the Sétah.
#MarsHelicopter pushes its Red Planet limits. 🚁
The rotorcraft completed its 9th and most challenging flight yet, flying for 166.4 seconds at a speed of 5 m/s. Take a look at this shot of Ingenuity’s shadow captured with its navigation camera. https://t.co/TNCdXWcKWE pic.twitter.com/zUIbrr7Qw9
— NASA JPL (@NASAJPL) July 5, 2021
After finishing at the Sétah formations, Ingenuity will examine a region named Raised Ridges for further possible research objectives, according to Ken Williford, the Mars mission’s deputy project scientist.
The mission’s ultimate goal is to establish whether or not life ever existed on Mars. To that end, Williford claims that Ingenuity is now a true scout.
“Now we can fly out and get a much closer view of rocks we think are very interesting, to assess their science value, well before we have to commit the resources to drive all the way there,” he said.
Williford said that NASA may utilise Ingenuity’s pictures to get a head start on science.
“Assuming the images are of high quality,” he added, “we can get scientific guys on those images and start making interpretations before the rover and its instruments arrive.”
The Mars 2020 mission, which included a rover and a helicopter, took out from Florida on July 30 and arrived on the Red Planet on February 18. On April 19, the helicopter conducted its historic inaugural flight – the first powered, controlled flight on another planet.