NASA’s Ingenuity Mars helicopter has soared through the Red Planet’s skies for the 15th time. The chopper, which arrived on Mars attached to the belly of the Perseverance rover, landed within the targeted zone on the Martian surface, said NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), which manages the Ingenuity mission. Initially, when NASA was making the chopper, the agency was not sure whether it would be able to fly at all on the cold Mars. It had originally planned for only five flights in total. In a tweet, JPL said Ingenuity flew for 128.8 seconds and “opportunistically took” some images of interest to scientists.
The officials were still processing the images and other data. Once that is processed, it would be clear what distance the chopper covered during its 15th flight.
Ingenuity was designed to fly for up to 90 seconds and travel for almost 980 feet (300m) at a time. It can gain about 10–15 feet (3–4.5 metres) altitude. The rotorcraft flies on its own, with minimal commands from Earth sent in advance, according to NASA.
After being launched from the Earth in July 2020, Ingenuity and Perseverance landed on Mars on February 18 this year, in the targeted zone in the Jezero Crater, a dried-up bed of an ancient lake. According to scientists, the lake may have hosted an ecosystem of Martian microbes over 3.5 billion years ago. They hope the crater may still have deposits that may throw light on the life that once possibly existed there.
Ingenuity lifted off Mars’ surface for the first time on April 19 and successfully completed a controlled flight.