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NASA’s plucky Mars helicopter eyes another flight record

Ingenuity, NASA’s intrepid Martian helicopter, is preparing to leave for its 49th mission to Mars.

In February 2021, the tiny drone-like ship and the Perseverance rover touched down on Mars.

The main objective of the rover is to look for signs of past life on the faraway planet, and Ingenuity has been helping by scouting the best paths for Perseverance to take across the rocky surface with the help of its onboard camera.

The crew at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), which is in charge of the current Mars expedition, was only initially concerned with testing whether the helicopter would be able to take to the air in Mars’ tenuous atmosphere more than two years ago.

The crew sent Ingenuity on increasingly difficult journeys that ended in the flights to help the rover after it successfully completed its inaugural flight in April 2021 to become the first aircraft to fly on another planet.

The Ingenuity crew is still eager to push the aircraft to its limits despite its remarkable accomplishments, and a trip this week might send it to its greatest altitude yet.

Ingenuity could soar as high as 52.5 feet (16 metres), breaking the previous record of 46 feet (14 metres) set on December 3, 2022, according to a tweet from JPL.

The 1.6-foot-tall (0.49-meter) helicopter is anticipated to fly the same route for around 135 seconds, covering 894 feet (272.5 meters) of distance while moving at a speed of about 10 mph.

The distance travelled by Ingenuity in a single flight is 2,325 feet (708.9 metres), which was accomplished in April 2022. The current record for time spent in the air is 169.5 seconds, set during a flight in August 2021.

NASA is intending to develop a more sophisticated version of the aircraft for upcoming missions to Mars and maybe other planets since it has been so impressed with Ingenuity’s capacity to endure this long while also overcoming a number of technical challenges.

The vehicle would be used by NASA to support rovers on the ground and collect aerial visual data for mapping purposes. Also, it might be used to carry soil and rock samples to waiting spacecraft that would return them to Earth for closer examination by researchers eager to learn more about the origin of our solar system and the history of a planet.