NASA JPL is celebrating the ninth successful flight of the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter. The successful flight was celebrated with a tweet on July 5, along with some mission details. The flight is described as its most challenging yet seeing Ingenuity in the air for 166.4 seconds.
During the flight, the helicopter achieved a speed of five m/s. The image seen above was snapped during the flight by Ingenuity’s navigation camera showing its shadow as it neared the Martian surface during the flight. The night flight marks the latest in a successful string of flights that started on April 19, 2021.
That initial test flight was very short, lasting only 30 seconds and seeing Ingenuity rise 10 feet off the Martian surface and hovering before landing. Subsequent test flights expanded its flight profile, with all going extremely smoothly, until the sixth test flight.
During that sixth flight, the helicopter encountered an issue that caused it to oscillate in the air, but it landed successfully. It was later determined that a missing image from its navigation camera caused Ingenuity to be unsure where it was. The issue with the camera was resolved, and its next test flights went smoothly and without issue.
On the ninth flight, Ingenuity did something that only an aerial vehicle exploring Mars could accomplish. It took a shortcut straight across a portion of the Seitah region and landed on a plain to the south. NASA planned to take color aerial images of the rocks and ripples it was flying over, and those haven’t been shared this time.
NASA had been a bit concerned because of the undulations on the ground the helicopter would be flying over. Ingenuity uses an onboard algorithm to determine where it is along its flight path designed for technology demonstration over flat terrain. It lacked the design features to accommodate high slopes and undulations found in the Seitah area, but those proved to be of no consequence during the flight. It’s unclear when Ingenuity might make its next flight at this time.