The Mars helicopter Ingenuity has completed its third flight of the year, as well as its 40th flight since landing with the Perseverance rover at the Jezero crater in February 2021. Despite being designed for only five flights and having to endure the Martian winter, the small helicopter is still running strong as it approaches its second anniversary on Mars.
On its 40th trip, the helicopter flew from Airfield Z to Airfield Beta, on its way to join the Perseverance rover as it explored the Jezero river delta.
When looking for signs of ancient life that might have existed when water was prevalent on the planet’s surface billions of years ago, it will help the rover scout ahead and pinpoint safe driving routes.
Each Ingenuity flight is documented in detail in the Flight Log, which also includes the flight’s duration and itinerary as well as the maximum altitude and maximum groundspeed the helicopter could reach during the flight.
For Flight 40, Ingenuity covered a distance of 584 feet (178 metres), rose 33 feet (10 metres), reached a speed of 3.2 metres per second, and hovered in the air for just over 90 seconds.
While in the air, Ingenuity uses both its 0.5-megapixel black-and-white navigation camera and its 13-megapixel colour camera to snap pictures. The helicopter’s internal computer uses the navigation camera to calculate the position and altitude of the craft, which is pointed downward and toward the surface. The helicopter will often capture a few colour photographs throughout a flight, but many more black and white ones are necessary for the chopper to fly properly.
The navigation photographs are made available to the public together with all other pictures that Ingenuity takes. So you may peruse the gallery here if you’ve ever wanted to see what Mars looks like from a helicopter’s perspective. Here is the gallery for the most recent flight, which includes two colour and 10 black and white pictures.