Hundreds of people contributed to make the Ingenuity Mars helicopter a companion for the Perseverance rover. It demonstrates a test to the first powered flight on the Red Planet that was only meant to last for five flights, according to Science Alert. However, its 13th successful flight shows that it is not yet ready to retire.
Josh Ravich, Ingenuity's mechanical engineering team head, said that everything seems to be working fine with the helicopter and that it was doing better than they have expected.
Ingenuity's Scouting Duties on Mars
According to NASA, the Ingenuity Mars helicopter carried out its first flight on the Red Planet's surface on April 19, 2021. This earned the helicopter the title of the first motorized craft to fly on another planet.
Science Alert reported that it was scheduled to do four more flights out of the five initially scheduled flights. It exceeded all expectations and have gone to fly a dozen more times.
Ravich, who worked for NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), said that perhaps it was on the third flight that the U.S. space agency has already accomplished its engineering goals and collected all data they hoped to get. As of today, Ingenuity has covered over one mile and flown as high as 39 feet (12 meters) on Mars.
However, its scouting duties were not all smooth. The helicopter dangerously went off-balance during its 6th flight when there was a malfunction in its ability to take photos that helps it stabilize. Luckily, the helicopter was able to recover and landed safe and sound.
Ingenuity uses its high-resolution color camera to scout the way for the Perseverance rover. Perseverance's science team head Ken Farley said that the photos captured by the Ingenuity rover during its 12th flight showed a region of South Séítah. However, NASA said that they most likely not send the rover there.
Ingenuity's Lucky 13 Flight
NASA shared a photo of Ingenuity on Twitter conducting its 13th flight on Mars. The U.S. space agency wrote on their website that Flight 13 is a journey built on the information gathered by Flight 12.
However, instead of focusing on South Séítah, they concentrated on a particular ridgeline and its outcrops by flying at a lower altitude of about 26 feet (8 meters) as opposed to Flight 12's 33 feet (10 meters).
Moreover, Ingenuity's camera during Flight 13 captured the southwest part of South Séítah which, when combined with the data from Flight 12's northeast perspective, would create overlapping images from a lower altitude perspective that gives valuable insight for Mars 2020 mission.
According to Space Explored, flying at a lower altitude helped them give more information on the depth and height of images taken, providing the most valuable data from the helicopter yet.
Since its first flight over four months ago, when the world was amazed by this technological advancement, Ingenuity's presence on the Red Planet's surface has become a custom traversing miles over Mars.
Now, it has to survive the approaching Martian winter as it continues its mission. NASA is already working on its next-generation successors with the information they gathered via over a dozen flights on the Red Planet.
Check out more news and information on Mars 2020 Mission in Science Times.