The little helicopter of the NASA Ingenuity it made its third flight on Mars on Sunday, moving farther and faster than in its two previous sorties, with a maximum of 7 km/h, the US space agency said.
After a first hover flight and a second almost immobilized, the machine this time traveled 50 meters, reaching a speed of 2 meters per second, or 7 km/h.
“Today’s flight was what we had planned, but it was no less incredible,” Dave Lavery, program director, from NASA Headquarters in Washington said in a statement.”
The Perseverance rover, on board which the small 1.8 kg helicopter arrived, filmed this third 80-second flight.
NASA announced on Sunday that clips of this video would be sent to Earth in the next few days.
This side-scrolling flight was a test for the helicopter’s autonomous navigation system, which performs this route based on previously received information.
“If Ingenuity flies too fast, the flight algorithm cannot identify the terrain,” NASA explained. The very low density of the Martian air (1% of the Earth’s atmosphere) forced NASA teams to design an ultralight helicopter whose blades rotate much faster than those of a standard machine to lift it off the ground.
The space agency now announces the preparation of a fourth flight. The operations are expected to become increasingly difficult and push the ingenuity to the limit.
Whatever happens, after a month at the most, the Ingenuity experiment will stop to allow the Perseverance rover to pursue its main task: searching for traces of ancient life on Mars.
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