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NASA’s helicopter, Ingenuity, makes its third flight on Mars

Ingenuity, NASA’s mini helicopter on Mars, successfully completed its third flight. NASA on Sunday said the helicopter travelled 50 metres (164 feet) at a speed of two metres per second (6.6 feet per second).

Ingenuity, the rotorcraft by NASA reached Mars in February 2021, after a seven-month journey from Earth. The four-pound (1.8 kilograms) rotorcraft by NASA was carried to Mars by the Perseverance rover. Its first flight on Mars was on April 19. It was also the first flight of a powered aircraft on another planet.

The third flight was filmed by the Perseverance rover.  The 80-second flight covered a distance of 64 feet (50 metres) at a speed of 6.6 feet per second (two metres per second) or four miles per hour. The flight was a test for the helicopter’s autonomous navigation system, which completes the route according to information received beforehand.

Ingenuity’s flights are challenging as the atmospheric conditions on Mars are different. Mars has a rarefied atmosphere that has less than one percent of the density of Earth. In this condition Ingenuity’s rotors, which span four feet, have to spin at 2,400 revolutions per minute to achieve lift. This is about five times more than helicopter rotors have to spin on Earth.

Ingenuity will make its fourth flight shortly. Each flight is planned to be of increasing difficulty in order to push Ingenuity to its limits. The Ingenuity experiment will end in one month so that Perseverance can return to its main task of searching for signs of past microbial life on Mars.

Last week NASA achieved another first in its Mars mission after it converted carbon dioxide from the Martian atmosphere into pure, breathable oxygen.


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