Ingenuity, NASA’s Mars Helicopter, Flies Faster And Further Than Ever Before (Photos)

The third trip for Ingenuity, the helicopter NASA sent to Mars to study the surface of Earth’s neighboring planet, was a record-breaking expedition, marking both the mission’s fastest and longest ride since its first trip on Mars last week.


Ingenuity flew up 16 feet in the air, then zipped 164 feet away, or roughly half the length of a football field, before returning to its launch site Sunday morning.


The trip lasted about 80 seconds as Ingenuity flew at about 4.5 mph, far faster and longer than previous trips, NASA said.


Ingenuity’s previous flight only lasted about 60 seconds, and only reached about 1.1 mph.


Sunday’s results left the team down on Earth at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California feeling “ecstatic,” NASA said in a statement Sunday.


The milestones marked a victory for the Ingenuity team, who face the unique challenge of controlling an unmanned chopper on Mars from more than 184 million miles away using only minimal directions sent in advance.


The short Sunday morning flight has delivered “a trove of information” that could help researchers prepare for not just more Ingenuity flights, but even trips for future Mars rotorcraft, according to NASA.


Ingenuity landed on Mars in February after hitching an intergalactic ride on the Perseverance rover. The two were launched out of Florida in July. NASA scientists are using cameras on board to search for signs of life on Mars, and are collecting rock and sediment samples. There are no plans for Perseverance and Ingenuity to make a return trip to Earth. While Perseverance is collecting samples, NASA scientists say future expeditions will bring the samples back for study, and no earlier than 2021.


Ingenuity’s fourth flight is slated to take place within the next few days, NASA said.


This black-and-white image was taken by the navigation camera aboard NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter during its third flight.


This photo, released Sunday, was taken by NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter during its second flight on Thursday. 

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