Ingenuity made its third flight to Mars on Sunday, April 25th. Just a week after April 19 and the first take-off of a few seconds, the helicopter on board the Perseverance rover continued its experimental mission, which will only last a month. NASA plans five flights before focusing on the main objective of finding samples from the Red Planet’s soil.
The helicopter’s third flight broke the record for flight time and distance flown. Air transport on Mars is entirely possible, a question that in the past had only mathematical answers, while Ingenuity is historically the first flight to another planet.
He had to prove that despite the low gravity and the atmosphere, which is only 1% of the Earth’s atmosphere, the lack of air, thanks to the rotation of its propellers, would not be an insurmountable barrier to push the helicopter over the ground. It is now shown that one form (or more) of air travel is possible on Mars.
A challenge still pushed back to the limit
Perseverance and NASA are now looking further ahead. They have a few more days on Mars to try to fly again and the destinations continue to be postponed. Now that Ingenuity knows how to take off and land, it can also travel at 7 km / h, as its third flight has just recorded. Despite his weight of 1.8 kg, which got him a total of 50 m, he also knows how to hold in the air for 80 seconds.
“Today’s flight was what we had planned, but it was no less incredible. […] With this flight, we are demonstrating capabilities that will add an air dimension to future missions to Mars, ”commented Dave Lavery, program manager at NASA headquarters in Washington. “This will open many doors for the exploration of other planets,” said Farah Alibay, aerospace engineer at NASA, already during the first flight last week.
It was of course the Perseverance Rover again that was responsible for the helicopter’s third flight. But unlike the other recordings, Ingenuity immediately set off to make its tour. For the general public as for the engineers, the same reaction to the return of the machine in field of view: a hostile landscape devoid of human traces, then the arrival of the aircraft. An image that will stay in memories and in history books.