NASA’s Ingenuity Mars helicopter logs 25th flight
NASA’s Ingenuity Mars helicopter completed its 25th flight on the Red Planet as it works to catch up with the Perseverance rover, which is making huge strides toward the Jezero crater river delta.
The 25th flight of the helicopter took place on April 8, 2022, flying about 2,310 feet (704 meters), reaching speeds of 5.5 meters per second, or about 12 miles per hour.
This marked the longest distance and quickest speed traveled by the Martian helicopter since its first flight roughly a year ago.
Traversing northwest across the Seìtah region, the flight brought Ingenuity to a new staging area as both it and Perseverance made their way to the ancient river delta.
Before the flight, teams at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California had to balance several risks that led to the decision of the duration and distance covered during flight 25.
The team originally introduced the idea of flying over crashed hardware from Perseverance’s landing, which currently is laid to waste on the Martian surface having successfully been used to safely land the rover and helicopter in Jezero crater on the Red Planet Feb. 18, 2021.
However, before the flight, the decision was made to fly around the wreckage as engineers did not know how Ingenuity’s laser navigation and radar altimeter would react to the non-natural surface created by the wreckage.
In addition to the behavior or Ingenuity’s onboard navigational aids, Earth-based teams also had a number of thermal, atmospheric, flight time and landing site considerations as the time to flight grew closer.
While Ingenuity may not have been able to fly over the aftermath of its historic Mars landing, the Perseverance rover was able to capture an image of the parachute that was used to slow the descent and landing vehicle.
The vehicle spotted the chute on its route to the ancient river delta.
The rover and helicopter have been making their way to the river delta for several weeks. Perseverance traversed some 2.8 miles (4.5 kilometers) around the Seìtah region.
Since its landing 14 months ago, the total distance traveled has been 5.8 miles (9.4 kilometers).
Meanwhile, the Ingenuity helicopter has flown a distance of 3.6 miles (5.8 kilometers) for a total flight time of about 46.5 minutes. Its first flight took place April 19, 2021.
As of April 18, the helicopter is about 3,720 feet (1,134 meters) east of the rover as they both move west toward the delta.
Having a life-long interest in crewed space flight, Desforges’ passion materialized on a family vacation in 1999 when he was able see the launch of Space Shuttle Discovery on STS-96. Since then, Desforges has been an enthusiast of space exploration efforts. He lived in Orlando, Florida for a year, during which time he had the opportunity to witness the flights of the historic CRS-4 and EFT-1 missions in person at Cape Canaveral. He earned his Private Pilot Certificate in 2017, holds a degree in Aviation Management, and currently works as an Operations Analyst in the aviation industry in Georgia.