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NASA Mars Helicopter Still Going Strong

It’s been just over two months since NASA’s experimental helicopter touched down on the Martian surface, and Ingenuity is still alive and well.

Despite having encountered some difficulty during its last transit, the increasingly impressive aircraft has now completed its seventh successful flight (and this time, without a hitch).

Using imagery captured by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter to select a new base of operations, the Ingenuity team sent the chopper roughly 106 meters south of its previous location, snapping a quick photo of the surface along the way.

Having already proven – for the first time – that controlled flight is doable on the red planet, Ingenuity has now entered a new phase of operations, functioning as a forward scout for Perseverance. By flying ahead of the rover, the chopper can gather additional information on science targets, potential routes, and obstacles by making aerial observations.

Battling against extreme cold and clinging to a super-thin atmosphere, the little technology demonstration that could has now traveled more than 800 meters.

Its present location can be seen relative to the Perseverance rover using NASA’s interactive map (below). The previous flight paths can be viewed by selecting that option within the layers tab (top left of the interface).

So, how is humanity’s first off-world helicopter doing after 66 days in the dusty cold of Mars? According to its NASA science team, not bad at all. In addition to working through the anomaly of its previous flight, the aircraft seems to be weathering the austerity of its new home quite well.

With additional flights planned at intervals of every two or three weeks, NASA aims to continue demonstrating how aerial vehicles can support robotic (and eventually crewed) missions on the red planet.

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Originally posted on 9 June 2021

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