NASA Ingenuity helicopter completes 40th flight on Mars

It flies and flies and flies: Although Ingenuity should only take off a few times, it continues to fly. He has already covered a total of 8 km.

The shot was taken in flight (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

The small Mars helicopter Ingenuity has completed its 40th flight and has now completed a total distance of more than 8 km. This was announced by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which is responsible for the device, and published a photo taken on the flight. Ingenuity has flown onto the foothills of an old river bed and is now well above the rover Perseverance. He is still busy depositing collected soil samples for possible pickup. For this, he left the area where Ingenuity has landed quite a while ago. The helicopter, it was the third flight in 2023.

Since Ingenuity woke up from the winter break in August, he has now completed ten flights with it and has long since caught up with Perseverance. Since flight number 34, he has been using new software that makes him significantly more independent, explained Joshua Anderson from JPL. He can now avoid obstacles when landing and also has a digital elevation map available for navigation. He can now only touch down on the rocky ground after he has previously independently identified the safest place.

Thanks to the digital elevation map, the helicopter can also fly to significantly smaller target areas. Previously, Ingenuity was programmed to assume the ground was flat while flying. He then automatically took countermeasures via surveys. On longer flights, you had to plan for that and the resulting inaccuracies in navigation, as a result, the landing regions were always quite large. That is now no longer necessary. An end to the mission is still not in sight.

Ingenuity had come to Mars with Perseverance in February 2021 and was only intended to prove that motorized aircraft could take off there. He did it impressively and now Ingenuity accompanies the rover on its mission. At the beginning of May, NASA lost contact with the helicopter for several days, which could no longer collect enough solar energy during the day due to the increasing dust in the atmosphere. That’s why the time was put back at night, which is why he radioed at the wrong time. After the problem was fixed, it had flown again and then put into winter dormancy. He left at the end of August and has been extremely active again since then.

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