NASA reports that the Mars helicopter Ingenuity has reached a milestone on the red planet. On its 17th flight, the helicopter passed the 30-minute mark. In total, Ingenuity has flown 30 minutes and 48 seconds in the thin air of Mars. In the 17 flights he covered 3592 meters. The maximum flight altitude was 12 meters. The maximum speed during the flights was 16 km / h.
For a while it wasn’t clear whether Ingenuity would survive this record unscathed. The 17th flight, which took place on December 5th, had technical problems. When the helicopter started to land, the data connection was lost.
This could have been a sign of a crash in which the helicopter was damaged. However, data could be received again a week later. Shortly afterwards, NASA was able to announce that this flight was also successful and Ingenuity is doing well.
Ingenuity has now flown 17 times over the surface of Mars. He outdid himself because NASA had actually only planned 5 such flights, as Havard Grip, the chief pilot of NASA’s Mars helicopter, writes.
Even if you learn from every flight, flying with Ingenuity is getting more and more difficult, writes Grip. This is not due to technical wear and tear, but to the atmosphere of Mars.
Because the atmosphere of Mars changes over the seasons. When planning the Ingenuity mission, NASA assumed that the flights would be completed in the first few months after arrival on Mars and that the mission would be completed.
So NASA adapted the helicopter’s flight characteristics to an atmosphere that will prevail on Mars in the weeks and months after February 2021. With the change of seasons, however, the density of the Martian atmosphere is now decreasing.
Here you can see the spectacular images from the Mars helicopter Ingenuity: