NASA's Ingenuity Makes Third Flight on Mars

It's only been a matter of days since NASA made history by flying something constructed by humans on Mars. The Ingenuity helicopter has been working in tandem with the Perseverance rover on gathering information in and around Mars' Jezero Carter in the everlasting search for extraterrestrial life. Now, Ingenuity has made its third flight, climbing higher and flying faster than it ever did in its two previous flights.

During the twilight hours of Sunday morning, those apart of NASA's Mars Exploration Program launched Ingenuity into the Martian air once again, flying it a distance of 164 feet at a rate of 6.6 feet per second. That means Ingenuity flew for roughly 20 seconds this time around, never flying any higher than 16 feet from the Mars surface. The Martian helicopter also captured its third color image of the planet, which was later released by NASA on Sunday morning.

ingenuity third color picture
(Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

"Today's flight was what we planned for, and yet it was nothing short of amazing," Ingenuity project lead Dave Lavery said in a release announcing the third successful flight. "With this flight, we are demonstrating critical capabilities that will enable the addition of an aerial dimension to future Mars missions."

During the earliest Ingenuity flights, NASA hopes to gather enough data to see just how far they can press the helicopter during future aerial missions. In addition to the color camera it has on board — which has since captured three different images — Ingenuity also has a black-and-white navigation camera that allows it to track features on the surface of the planet immediately below it.

"This is the first time we've seen the algorithm for the camera running over a long distance," JPL project manager MiMi Aung added in the release. "You can't do this inside a test chamber."


JPL manufactured the helicopter on behalf of NASA. Though exact details aren't available, NASA is already planning the helicopter's fourth flight in a matter of days.

The Ingenuity Mars Helicopter was built by JPL, which also manages this technology demonstration project for NASA Headquarters. It is supported by NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate, and Space Technology Mission Directorate. NASA's Ames Research Center and Langley Research Center provided significant flight performance analysis and technical assistance during Ingenuity's development. AeroVironment Inc., Qualcomm, Snapdragon, and SolAero also provided design assistance and major vehicle components. The Mars Helicopter Delivery System was designed and manufactured by Lockheed Space Systems, Denver.

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