After a month-long hiatus from communication with Earth, NASA’s Mars helicopter, Ingenuity, has resumed flight.
The unmanned aerial vehicle achieved a 393-meter flight path and maintained altitude for over two minutes. The helicopter also reached a height of 39 feet (11.9 meters) and a top speed of 11.9 mph (5,4 meters per second), all without displaying any signs of trouble after spending a considerable amount of time on the ground.
The sun’s path between Earth and Mars caused a communication breakdown between the Ingenuity team and the helicopter, which resulted in the flight suspension.
This is the second time that NASA’s most recent Mars mission, which includes the Perseverance rover, will be impacted by the so-called “solar conjunction,” which occurs every few years. The Curiosity rover and the three Mars orbiters, which are part of NASA’s other Mars vehicles, have been on and around the planet for a lot longer and have seen several solar conjunctions.
Since April 2021, when Ingenuity became the first aircraft to accomplish powered, controlled flight on a planet other than Earth, it has outperformed initial expectations.
NASA is so impressed with it, in fact, that it wants to create more sophisticated aircraft for use in upcoming missions to Mars and other planets.
Originally intended to be a technological demonstration, Ingenuity was used by the JPL team to collect aerial photos of the Martian surface with the help of the aircraft’s on-board camera. With the aid of this imagery, the ground-based Perseverance rover has been able to map safe and effective routes—a benefit not afforded to previous Mars missions like Curiosity, Spirit, and Opportunity.
Scientists hope to send some of the rover’s samples of rock and soil back to Earth for more in-depth examination as Perseverance continues to search the Martian surface for signs of prehistoric microbial life.