NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter, which rushes to Mars in search of signs of ancient life, has completed a record 25 flights through the thin atmosphere. When the tiny helicopter was sent one way, along with its rover partner Perseverance, engineers had planned just five flights. While space agencies typically set their goals conservatively to maximize production, Ingenuity exceeded expectations by continuing to send valuable data from the Red Planet to ground stations. But that’s not all! Ingenuity achieved further milestones on its 25th flight.
On April 8, when the flight took off, the helicopter flew further and faster than ever. He broke distance and speed records, reaching 704 meters high, up to 5.5 meters per second. Ingenuity’s black and white navigation camera captured “breathtaking” footage during the flight. NASA engineers put them together in a video, showing a robotic helicopter’s view of a flight across Mars.
Ingenuity has taken other flights since the 25th. It is currently preparing for its 29th flight, NASA said.
Ingenuity team leader Teddy Tzanetos said the helicopter’s navigation camera gave them “a breathtaking feeling” of what it would be like to glide above the surface of Mars during the record flight.
The video begins about a second into the flight. The helicopter heads southwest after reaching a height of 10 meters, reaching maximum speed in less than three seconds.
Watch the video here:
According to NASA, Ingenuity flights are autonomous. Its handlers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) plan flights and send commands to the rover, which relays those commands to the helicopter.
Last year, NASA extended the rover-helicopter duo’s mission to Mars indefinitely. Over its extended life, the helicopter occasionally encounters technical problems. Recently, Ingenuity had lost communication with mission controllers for the first time in a year of operation. But the problem was quickly fixed.