Mars helicopter Ingenuity breaks 3-month flight gap with 53rd Red Planet hop: Times Of Nation
NASA’s Red Planet helicopter took to the skies again after a three-month pause.
The Ingenuity drone flew sometime in the last few days on Mars, achieving Flight 53. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory has not yet released details of the flight, but its Twitter account already says 54 is in the works.
“The #MarsHelicopter team is planning a short pop-up flight, with the rotorcraft reaching 16 feet (5 meters) for about 25 seconds,” JPL officials wrote of Flight 54 on Thursday (Aug. 3).
Related: Mars helicopter Ingenuity phones home, breaking 63-day silence
The milestone 53rd flight happened three months after the last excursion on April 26. Ingenuity hopped behind rugged terrain and fell silent. That’s because it couldn’t reach Perseverance, the massive rover relaying communications to and from Earth, until the two vehicles came within view of each other on June 28.
Flight 53, listed as a scouting flight by JPL, was expected to fly no earlier than July 22. Its aim was to hop the helicopter horizontally and north across 666 feet (203 meters) of Martian terrain with air time of roughly 2 minutes and 16 seconds. Ingenuity was expected to soar roughly 32 feet (10 meters) into the air and achieve a top speed of 5.6 mph (2.5 meters per second).
Anecdotal Twitter reports by keen-eyed Mars watchers, looking at the raw pictures coming in from the Red Planet, suggest the actual flight date took place on or before Aug. 2. JPL has not yet released any details of the timing, duration, altitude, distance or speed of the flight on the Ingenuity flight log as of mid-morning EDT of Friday (Aug. 4).
Ingenuity has expanded its flight manifest by more than fivefold. Sent to Mars as the first powered, controlled aircraft on another world, the original plan called for only five flights in 2021. The helicopter has persisted with flair through communications shortages, cold weather, dusty conditions and other complications endemic to working on the Red Planet.
The drone’s expanded mission now sees Ingenuity act as a scout for its partner Perseverance, which alighted on the surface in February 2021. Perseverance is on a hunt for ancient habitable conditions and is caching samples aside for a planned Mars sample return mission. Lightsaber-shaped samples of Red Planet material may ferry back to Earth in the 2030s, depending on funding and political will.
(News Source :Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by Times Of Nation staff and is published from a www.space.com feed.)
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