NASA’s Ingenuity, the little helicopter that could, just keeps on going. Despite facing the unforgiving winter's freezing temperatures and dust storms (and the original plan to fly just five times), the helicopter has now reached the 30th flight milestone. Although it was nothing more than a short hop, it helped shake some dust off its solar panels and is keeping it active during the long cold Martian winter.
Winter in Jezero Crater is far from mild and Ingenuity is experiencing very cold temperatures. The overnight temperature can drop to -86°C (-124°F). The solar panels are also getting less light than they used to, so the power level is lower than what is necessary to keep the batteries on day and night. But while long flights are not possible, short daytime hops are feasible, which is what the team has done.
The previous flight was back on June 11 so first the team checked the rotor still performed as well as it has done so far. Once that test was successful, the team flew the little helicopter of about 2 meters (6.5 feet).
This flight was also a test to verify that this method could be used to make very small trips. This is useful knowledge for the propsed plan to have future helicopters collect the samples that Perseverence is collecting on Mars and fly them back to the rocket that will bring them to Earth.
Ingenuity will perform more of these short hop flights, trying to keep up with Perseverence in the exploration of Jezero Crater’s delta.