July has been a month of smashing new records for NASA’s Ingenuity. The Mars Helicopter is excelling in its new mission of assisting Perseverance in its scientific work and the team has been flying it farther, faster, for longer, and higher than ever before.
With its 10th flight on July 24, it has taken to the air twice as many times as it was originally planned to – a true testament to how talented the team behind this pioneering flying vehicle is. Flight 9, on July 5, designed to gather some aerial imagery for the Perseverance team, had the helicopter flying the farthest and fastest yet. It moved over a distance of 625 meters (2,051 feet) at 5 meters per second (11 miles per hour) for 2 minutes, 46 seconds.
On flight 10, it soared even higher. For the first time in its mission, Ingenuity reached an altitude of 12 meters (40 feet), and though its flight time was similar to flight 9 it flew in a much more complex configuration with 10 distinct waypoints to fly through. Not bad for a vehicle that was expected to crash by flight 4 or 5 while testing its limitations.
This flight had Ingenuity passing its first milestone on Mars, literally. Its combined flights now total over 1.6 kilometers (1 mile) distance flown, with flight 10 adding a few hundred meters under its belt. The target for this jaunt was to do some aerial scouting of an area called the "Raised Ridges." This is an area that the Perseverance science team is also intrigued by and hopes to visit these geographic features with the rover at some point in the future.
Ingenuity will continue to assist Perseverance for as long as it can. The team is not sure how long this will be given it was not designed to last this long, so each flight is used to get the maximum out of it. As the first flying vehicle on Mars, it was a complete unknown but it has secured its place in history as one of the most successful experiments ever on the Red Planet.