Mars Ingenuity helicopter flew low for its 13th flight

Yesterday, the Ingenuity helicopter completed its 13th flight taking it over the South Seitah area, where it captured images from a lower altitude than it has in the past. For the 13th mission, the helicopter again flew to the area of rock outcrops that it took images of during its 12 flight. The difference between flight number 12 and flight number 13 was the direction of the images. Flight 13 images were to looking in the opposite direction.These images concentrated on one specific ridgeline and outcrops of rock and were taken at an altitude of 26 feet from the surface. Images taken during flight number 12 were snapped at an altitude of 33 feet above the surface. Flight 13 images were taken pointing Southwest. When combined with the perspective taken in flight 12, overlapping images from a lower altitude are expected to provide insight for Perseverance scientists and rover drive planners.

Another interesting comparison between flights 12 and 13 is the distance traveled. Flight 12 covered 1476 feet, with the mission spanning 169.5 seconds with ten images taken pointing northeast. Flight 13 covered only 690 feet with a mission duration of around 161 seconds, with ten images taken pointing Southwest. Flight speed for the latest mission was 7.3 mph compared to 10 mph during flight 12.

That means flight 13 is traveling lower, slower, and spending more time on one target. Since Ingenuity began operations, it's taken 72 13-megapixel color images. The helicopters also snapped 1390 black-and-white navigation camera images. Ingenuity has spent 141 Mars days in operation since deployment.

So far, Ingenuity has flown 1.44 nautical miles, much further than it was initially planned to fly. Ingenuity was supposed to be a tech demo, but it performed so well its mission was expanded into an operations demonstration. NASA plans to fly the helicopter as long as possible.