NASA's Mars helicopter Ingenuity completed its fourth flight on the Red Planet Friday after a technical glitch prevented the rotorcraft from switching into flight mode Thursday.
Ingenuity was pushed even harder this time, "going farther & faster than ever before," said NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. The 4-pound helicopter flew at an altitude of 16 feet on a 436 feet flight plan downrange. It logged more than 872 feet on the round trip, lasting 117 seconds.
Breaking its own records! The #MarsHelicopter team celebrated their 4th flight today. Ingenuity rose 16 ft (5 m) above the surface before flying south ~436 ft (~133 m) and then back. It was in the air for 117 seconds during its 872-ft (266-m) trip. https://t.co/gCeXq5jtkL pic.twitter.com/GxdjKFMo77— NASA JPL (@NASAJPL) April 30, 2021
The Mars helicopter captured a stunning photo of the rocky surface.
"We also managed to capture lots of images during the flight with the color camera and with Ingenuity's black-and-white navigation camera, which tracks surface features as it flies," NASA said.
Ingenuity demonstrates how controlled flight is possible on Mars, and scouting missions will continue. The operation could benefit future exploration of the Red Planet and other worlds.
"The Ingenuity technology demonstration has been a resounding success," said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate. "Since Ingenuity remains in excellent health, we plan to use it to benefit future aerial platforms while prioritizing and moving forward with the Perseverance rover team's near-term science goals."
More flights are planned in the coming weeks as Ingenuity will fly farther and faster. It will continue to serve as a companion to the Perseverance rover, mapping out routes for it to explore. The mission is for NASA and private industry to better understand conditions on the Red Planet.
Interest in Mars and even the moon comes as a space mining war is inevitable between the US, China, and Russia.