NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter flies on Mars for the 56th time

NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter flies on Mars for the 56th time
black-and-white photo showing the shadow of a small helicopter flying over sandy ground.



NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter acquired this image using its navigation camera on its 56th Red Planet flight, which occurred on Aug. 26, 2023.
(Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

NASA’s Ingenuity Mars helicopter keeps adding to its tally of off-Earth flights.

The 4-pound (1.8 kilograms) Ingenuity flew for the 56th time on Aug. 26, staying aloft for nearly 2.5 minutes on the Mars sortie.

“The #MarsHelicopter completed Flight 56, traveling 1,334 ft (410 m) across the Martian surface at a maximum altitude of ~39 ft (12 m). The goal of this flight was to reposition the helicopter,” NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Southern California, which manages the little rotorcraft’s mission, wrote via X (formerly Twitter) on Thursday (Aug. 31).

Related: Mars helicopter Ingenuity phones home, breaking 63-day silence

Ingenuity landed with NASA’s Perseverance rover inside Mars’ Jezero Crater in February 2021. The helicopter quickly aced its five-flight demonstration mission, showing that powered flight is possible on the Red Planet despite its thin atmosphere.

NASA then granted Ingenuity a mission extension, during which the chopper is serving as a scout for the life-hunting, sample-collecting Perseverance. The robotic duo are working together to explore the 28-mile-wide (45 kilometers) Jezero, which hosted a big lake and a river delta billions of years ago.

Ingenuity has racked up some impressive numbers during its time on the Red Planet. The little drone has covered a total of 42,369 feer (12,914 m) of ground on its 56 flights and stayed aloft for more than 100 minutes, mission team members wrote on Ingenuity’s flight log.

That flight log, by the way, states that Flight 56 occurred on Aug. 25. However, Ingenuity’s photo database dates the sortie to Aug. 26.

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Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with Space.com and joined the team in 2010. He primarily covers exoplanets, spaceflight and military space, but has been known to dabble in the space art beat. His book about the search for alien life, “Out There,” was published on Nov. 13, 2018. Before becoming a science writer, Michael worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor’s degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Michael on Twitter.

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