Video captures NASA’s record-breaking Ingenuity Mars helicopter flight

NASA’s Ingenuity Mars helicopter has completed a record-breaking trek across the Martian surface. The tiny exploration drone made its first flight on April 19, 2021. It has since made several flights. In addition to being the first aircraft in human history to perform powered and controlled flight on another planet, Ingenuity continues to break flight records time and time again.

Ingenuity breaks more flight records on its 25th flight

On April 8, 2022, NASA’s Mars Ingenuity took off on its 25th flight. While a milestone in itself, Ingenuity also broke two records during this flight.

First, he broke his duration record, staying aloft for just over two minutes and 41 seconds. Second, he broke his speed record. The helicopter flew at 12 mph for the duration of the flight, traversing over 2,310 feet of the planet’s surface.

Ingenuity has flown three more times since that day. However, NASA recently shared footage of the Ingenuity’s latest flight record. The nearly three-minute video was sped up quite dramatically, lasting just 35 seconds into the video.

The video also does not show the start or end of the flight. But that’s because the navigation camera turns off when the helicopter comes within a meter of the surface. The helicopter was designed to do this so that dust from the planet does not interfere with the navigation system.

Still, there really isn’t much to see of the camera used by Ingenuity. While breaking the flight record is exciting, the real discoveries will come with Perseverance’s ongoing mission to learn more about ancient life on Mars. Of course, that doesn’t mean ingenuity isn’t important.

The place of ingenuity in history

From the NASA blog: “This image of Mars was taken from a height of 33 feet (10 meters) by NASA’s Ingenuity Mars helicopter during its sixth flight on May 22, 2021.” Image source: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Part of what makes Ingenuity’s pursuit of flight records so important is the role it plays in the future of planetary exploration. Flying is one of the fastest ways to explore and travel. As such, establishing an automated system capable of taking off and flying at considerable speeds and for long durations is vital for future exploration of Mars and other planets.

NASA has a lot of big plans to dig deeper into exoplanets using the James Webb Space Telescope. But, with drones like Ingenuity, we could get a closer look using planes along the planet’s surface. And Ingenuity’s tenacity to survive a near-death experience, as well as a more recent power scare this year, proved that NASA engineering can hold its own.

All that’s left to do now is enjoy the Ingenuity’s continued flight records and all it can teach us about flying on other planets.

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