There was much to celebrate at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California back in April after the data returned from Mars confirmed that the Ingenuity helicopter – the first of its kind ever sent to another planet – had successfully achieved its maiden flight.
At the time, the novel rotorcraft was only expected to survive for a small number of flights, but against all odds it has since achieved flight after flight while simultaneously breaking its own records.
On July 5th, Ingenuity achieved its ninth flight, which saw it remain airborne for 166.4 seconds, cover a distance of around 2,000ft and break its own speed record by reaching 15ft per second.
Its success is not only good news for the mission itself, but for future missions to Mars which are likely to utilize even more sophisticated helicopter drones to explore the planet’s surface.
“In the week ahead, Ingenuity will send back color images that Perseverance’s scientists are looking forward to studying,” NASA wrote. “Captured in those images are rock outcrops that show contacts between the major geologic units on Jezero Crater’s floor.”
“They also include a system of fractures the Perseverance team calls ‘Raised Ridges,’ which the rover’s scientists hope to visit in part to investigate whether an ancient subsurface habitat might be preserved there.”