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NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter makes 30th Martian flight

NASA's Ingenuity Mars helicopter captured this image on its 30th flight, on Aug. 20, 2022.

NASA’s Ingenuity Mars helicopter captured this image on its 30th flight, on Aug. 20, 2022.(Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter now has 30 Martian flights under its belt.

The 4-pound (1.8 kilograms) Ingenuity took to the skies on Saturday (Aug. 20) for the very first time in a lot more than 8 weeks, acing a brief hop that has been its 30th overall Red Planet sortie.

Ingenuity have been grounded since June 11, through no fault of its. It’s winter at the helicopter’s locale, the 28-mile-wide (45 kilometers) Jezero Crater, and the solar-powered Ingenuity isn’t getting enough sunlight to help keep its batteries charged both night and day, mission associates wrote in a recently available post (opens in new tab).

Related: Mars helicopter Ingenuity: First aircraft to fly on Red Planet

That issue, that is worsened by the buildup of dust on Ingenuity’s solar power, precludes long and ambitious flights, but short hops remain possible right now. And the Ingenuity team made a decision to take the tiny rotorcraft out for a short spin on Saturday to ensure it’s still doing OK after experiencing a lot more than 100 freezing-cold Martian winter nights.

The flight was made to last 33 seconds and cover just 6.5 feet (2 meters) of horizontal distance, based on the post. And Ingenuity apparently hit those marks.

“The #MarsHelicopter is back flight! Following a two-month hiatus, the rotorcraft did a brief hop on the weekend therefore the team can check its vitals and knock some pull out the solar power,” NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Southern California, which manages Ingenuity’s mission, said via Twitter on Monday (opens in new tab) (Aug. 22).

Ingenuity landed with NASA’s Perseverance rover in February 2021 on to the floor of Jezero Crater, which hosted a lake and a river delta vast amounts of years back. Perseverance is looking for signs of ancient Mars life and collecting a large number of samples for future go back to Earth.

Ingenuity was originally tasked with a five-flight campaign made to show that helicopters can explore Mars. The tiny chopper aced that technology-demonstration greater than a year ago and is currently serving as a scout for Perseverance.

Perseverance has already reached the ancient river delta, and Ingenuity should join the rover there soon, following the weather improves a little. (The rotorcraft was not in a position to follow Perseverance closely during its winter quiescent period.)

“We plan to continue our flight path toward the river delta in the coming weeks as the environment (and therefore the daily recoverable battery charge) continues to boost,” Teddy Tzanetos, Ingenuity team lead at JPL, wrote in the recent update.

“With higher battery states of charge should come longer flights, and finally Ingenuity can power its internal heaters overnight, that may stop its electronics from freezing in the Martian cold each evening,” he added. “Also planned for September is really a flight-software upgrade which will enable new navigation capabilities in order that Ingenuity can fly better over the challenging river delta terrain in the months ahead.”

Mike Wall may be the writer of “ON THE MARKET (opens in new tab)” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book concerning the seek out alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall (opens in new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab) or on Facebook (opens in new tab).

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Mike Wall

Michael Wall is really a Senior Space Writer (opens in new tab)and joined the team in 2010.He primarily covers exoplanets, spaceflight and military space, but has been recognized to dabble in the area art beat.His book concerning the seek out alien life, “ON THE MARKET,” was published on Nov. 13, 2018. Before learning to be a science writer, Michael worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He’s got a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor’s degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. To discover what his latest project is, it is possible to follow Michael on Twitter.

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