Ingenuity still good as new after almost a year on Mars

(ORDO NEWS) — After nearly a year of operation, the NASA Ingenuity Mars Helicopter is still “like new”.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory announced on March 11 that Ingenuity has completed its 21st flight on the planet, breaking 370 meters during a 129-second flight. Since the first flight in April 2021, the helicopter has covered more than 4.6 kilometers.

Ingenuity was designed as a technology demonstration, with an initial plan of no more than five flights in a month. However, the excellent performance of the 1.8-kilogram helicopter prompted NASA to extend its mission, using it as a reconnaissance scout ahead of the Perseverance rover that brought Resourcefulness to Mars.

The information provided by the helicopter created some modest time savings for the Perseverance rover. “It certainly saved us a few days, maybe a week, of the rover time frame by having this cutting edge information,” said Matt Golombek, senior scientist at JPL.

Other perseverance scholars have agreed that the helicopter is useful. “I was really impressed with how well it worked and how useful it was,” said Justin Simon, a planetary scientist at NASA’s Johnson Space Center who is working on the Perseverance mission, during the March 7 conference session.

This work will continue as Perseverance heads to the remnants of the river delta in the coming weeks. “The goal is to keep the helicopter in front of the rover to provide preliminary information that will help in its exploration,” Golombek said.

This includes reconnaissance of the paths that the rover could take to reach the delta and the identification of rocks for the rover to study using the toolkit.

The helicopter itself showed no signs of wear and tear after nearly a year on Mars. “So far, we have not found any degradation or loss of anything on the helicopter. It’s like new,” he said.

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