NASA’s Mars Helicopter Has Landed In A New Place You’ve Never Seen Before

NASA’s Creative Helicopter once again defied expectations on Mars, as it flew 350 feet south to land in an entirely new area.

For the second time, the tissue box-sized drone flew to a new landing site, flew over land its navigation cameras had never seen before, then gently lowered itself for landing. NASA only had information about the new region of the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which depicts the Red Planet from space. Orbiter images indicated that the spot was flat and should be safe to land.

Creativity captured this image of its shadow during its seventh voyage on Mars. NASA/JPL-Caltech

The adventure paid off. Now, Ingenuity is sitting at a brand new airport with a total of seven flights under its belt.

“Another successful flight,” NASA announce Tuesday. The agency did not specify the date of the flight’s departure, but did not specify before Sunday.

NASA did not originally plan to move the helicopter much. It was designed for only five flights, and engineers expected it to crash by the end of that series. But the creativity did so well on its more cautious initial outings that the agency sent him on Bold new mission. As long as it survives, the helicopter is expected to continue flying to new airfields.

This new directive gives Ingenuity an opportunity to test operations that NASA may want to perform with future space helicopters. This includes exploration and mapping, observing interesting features of Mars from the air, and exploring rugged terrain that roving vehicles cannot reach.

“The ability to fly the helicopter out into terrain that the rover cannot traverse and return scientific data — this is very important for future missions that could combine the rover and the reconnaissance helicopter,” said Ken Farley, project scientist at NASA’s probe. , in briefing.

The helicopter made the first of these additional flights on May 22, when it flew 700 feet to a new location. in the air, Its navigation system suffered from a glitch This caused the helicopter to skew side to side as it flew. But even then, the genius has stabilized enough to land safely. He ended up about 16 feet from the target point, landing in completely uncharted territory for the first time.

NASA hasn’t said how often the ingenuity can fly.

“We’re at some point ‘see how it goes,'” said Laurie Glaese, director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division.

Meanwhile, the perseverance rover Which carried ingenuity to Mars, began driving south to the area where it would attempt to take the first sample of Martian soil. Its primary mission is to analyze the rocks and soil of Mars and collect dozens of samples for a future NASA mission to return them to Earth. In those samples, scientists can find the first evidence of ancient alien microbes — fossils trapped at the bottom of an ancient lake.

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