We’ve been keeping close track of Ingeniuity’s progress here at Universe Today. Following the little helicopter that could hasn’t always been easy – with almost 30 flights logged covering over 7 kilometers and consistently breaking its own record for longest controlled power flight on another planet, Ingenuity has lived up to every expectation so far. But it’s been hard to understand just what it must feel like to fly through the Martian atmosphere – until now.
NASA recently released a stunning video of the helicopter’s 25th flight, which took place on April 18th. At the time, the flight was both the furthest and the fastest Ingenuity had traveled – and it was all captured by the helicopter’s navigation cam. While the video clocks in at about 35 seconds, the actual flight clocked in at 161.3 seconds, with the video increased to 5 times normal speed to make it seem more fluid.
During the flight, Ingenuity traveled 704 meters on its scouting mission to help Perseverance, its rover companion, make its way to a dried lake bed. It reached a height of 10 meters, the standard height for most of its flights. At that height, the craft traveled at a reasonably paced 5.5 m/s, setting a new speed record for the Red Planet and far outpacing Perseverance itself.
Ingenuity’s not done yet either, though the pace of flights has slowed down due to the ubiquitous Martian dust gradually covering the helicopter’s solar panels. This recently caused a shutdown of the main computer on the craft, though it was eventually brought back up. However, it lost the syncing it had previously established with Perseverance, causing a halt to the rover’s explorations while it waited to re-establish the connection. The engineering team is still holding out hope that the batteries can be charged sufficiently enough, even with the covered solar panels, to get in a few more flights.
But for now, Ingenuity looks to be grounded at “Airfield T,” as its current resting place is known, for some time yet. Even if there isn’t much hope for one more flight at this point, the stunning visuals and string of first achievements unlocked by the helicopter will remain indefinitely in the record books of human history.
Still image from Ingenuity’s 24th flight video.
Credit – NASA / JPL-Caltech / MSSS