NASA’s Mars helicopter successfully completed its third flight on Mars on Sunday, the space agency reports on its website. The aircraft flew at 2 meters per second and traveled 100 meters before returning to its starting position.
Ingenuity went about 25 times further in flight than its second flight at the end of last week. During its third flight, the Mars helicopter first rose 5 meters, before making a round at a speed of about 7.2 kilometers per hour.
The flight was intended to test the helicopter’s navigation system. Ingenuity tries to determine its location with the help of a camera that photographs the underground. The further it flies, the more pictures the aircraft has to take of the landscape to find its way back. If the Mars helicopter were to fly too fast, it could get lost.
NASA speaks of a successful flight. Project manager MiMi Aung says this has made it clear for the first time that the algorithm with which the camera works also works at a longer distance. “You can’t try this in a test room,” said Aung.
Ingenuity is currently stealing the show on Mars. The device was launched as luggage in the cargo hold of Mars rover Perseverance last year. The aircraft landed on Mars in February. Last week, the aircraft made a successful flight on Mars for the first time.
Nevertheless, the project will soon come to an end. Ingenuity is expected to fly two more times, after which the aircraft is exhausted. Subsequently, NASA’s focus shifts back to Perseverance, which takes soil samples and looks for signs of life.