This year’s been all about space exploration, with several countries reaching the red planet and NASA in particular showing off by deploying their first off-world helicopter. Ingenuity has taken the long road there but from its first test flight, undertaken last week, the little chopper has since conducted two more flights.
Ingenuity in the air
The second of the helicopter’s test flights took place on 22 April and saw the little craft rise to about 5.2 metres above the Martian surface. There it hovered, pitching forward enough to fly about two metres before returning to the ground. It was on this flight that the first colour images of Mars from the air were snapped and sent back to Earth.
Ingenuity’s third flight took place yesterday, 25 April, and saw the rotorcraft rising to a height of 5 meters and then traversing 50 metres of Martian landscape at a rate of two metres per second. As drone flights go, it’s not impressive by Earth standards but it’s being flown on another planet and it still hasn’t crashed and burned. That’s good enough for us.
And, it seems, good enough for NASA. The agency’s Dave Lavery said, “Today’s flight was what we planned for, and yet it was nothing short of amazing. With this flight, we are demonstrating critical capabilities that will enable the addition of an aerial dimension to future Mars missions.”