Ingenuity Mars Helicopter's 12th flight puts a dozen on the books

Over the weekend, NASA was gearing up for the 12th flight for the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter. NASA planned for the flight to happen no earlier than Monday, August 16, on the 174th Martian sol. The flight plan saw the helicopter travel into the South Seitah region, which is the top yellow circle in the image below.

The 12th flight was planned to be similar to the 10th flight with scouting over a surface feature of Mars called Raised Ridges. However, mission planners believe that the 12th flight could provide better science results than the 10th. This time, Ingenuity utilized its AutoNav capability. NASA JPL confirmed via a tweet that the 12th flight happened as planned.

Perseverance and Ingenuity will meet in the same location in the coming days making this flight critical for the Mars helicopter. During the flight, Ingenuity climbed to an altitude of 32.8 feet and flew for a total of 169 seconds. It traveled 1476 feet round-trip scouting the South Seitah region for the Perseverance rover team.

NASA outlined the flight path for Ingenuity with the helicopter achieving its desired altitude and then flying 35 meters East-Northwest. Once it arrived at that location, it sidestepped five meters to take side-by-side images of the surface terrain for a stereo 3D image.

After taking that stereo image, Ingenuity returned to the same area where it took off to capture ten color images intended to help the Perseverance science team determine which terrain features might be worth investigating with the rover. While the flight went off without a hitch, there was concern as NASA had initially said the flight carried a substantial risk because of the varying terrain. The navigation system integrated into the helicopter was originally intended to be used for only a short technology demonstration and assumes the helicopter is flying over flat terrain.