NASA’s Creative Helicopter continues to sail the skies over Mars, having recently completed its ninth and most challenging flight to date.
The multirotor plane broke many of its own records during the flight, as confirmed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the California-based unit that oversees the last mission to Mars.
During its most recent flight, Ingenuity flew for 166.4 seconds, beating the previous record of 139.9 seconds set during its sixth flight on May 23.
The 4-pound, 19-inch plane also flew 625 metres, well beyond the current record of 266 metres it covered on its fourth flight on April 29.
The machine also managed to reach a speed of 5 meters per second, 1 mph faster than it has been flying since its sixth flight.
JPL has tweeted confirmation of the successful Ingenuity flight, along with an image taken by the plane’s downward-facing camera as it flew over the surface of Mars.
# helicopter Pushes the limits of the red planet. 🚁
The helicopter completed its ninth and most challenging flight to date, flying for 166.4 seconds at 5 m/s. Take a look at Ingenuity’s shadow shot taken with its navigation camera. https://t.co/TNCdXWcKWE pic.twitter.com/zUIbrr7Qw9
And the[مدش]. NASA JPL (@NASAJPL) 5 July 2021
It’s clear that creativity has come a long way since its historic flight on April 19 when it became the first aircraft to perform powered and controlled flight on another planet. On that flight, it climbed to a height of 3 meters and remained in place for about 40 seconds before descending again. Each subsequent flight became progressively more demanding.
JPL has been pleased with Ingenuity’s ability to comfortably handle Mars’ extremely thin atmosphere, which presents challenging conditions for planes because they need to increase lift power to stay in the sky. In the case of NASA’s Mars helicopter, engineers designed them with carbon-fiber blades arranged in two rotors that operate at 2,400 rpm, much faster than a passenger helicopter on Earth, which has a thicker atmosphere than Mars.
The plane has already scored high on all of the initial challenges set by the JPL team, namely surviving the flight from Earth to Mars aboard the spacecraft that also transported NASA’s Perseverance rover, deploying safely to the surface of Mars, and dealing with the bitterly cold temperatures. . On the Red Planet, it charges itself via solar panels and, last but not least, the process of lifting, flying and landing.
More advanced versions of Ingenuity can be used to explore and analyze rocky terrain on Mars and other planets that are not easily accessible to conventional wheeled rover vehicles. The flying machine could also assist in safe road mapping of roving vehicles, enabling vehicles to move more quickly between search sites.
While the creativity has already exceeded expectations, the JPL team is far from over as it continues to plan more flights that push the device to its limits, thus helping NASA improve the helicopter design.