NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter has completed its third flight on Mars, flying “faster and farther” than it did in any test flights on Earth.
The United States space agency in a statement on Sunday said the helicopter travelled 50 metres at a top speed of two metres per second.
It was Ingenuity’s third flight since it made its historic first hop on the Red Planet earlier this month.
“Today’s flight was what we planned for, and yet it was nothing short of amazing,” said Dave Lavery, programme executive for Ingenuity Mars Helicopter at NASA Headquarters in Washington, DC.
The #MarsHelicopter is really “spreading its wings” now – even pushing beyond my camera's field of view. Watch my view of Flight #3, as Ingenuity takes off on a long run (164 ft/50 m) down its flight zone and back. https://t.co/ESQu9PIL9S pic.twitter.com/PzEoD3XoHA
— NASA's Perseverance Mars Rover (@NASAPersevere) April 25, 2021
Ingenuity reached Mars in February on board the Perseverance rover after a seven-month journey from Earth.
Its inaugural Martian flight on April 19 marked the first flight of a powered aircraft on another planet.
NASA said most of the helicopter’s 80-second flight on Sunday, captured by Ingenuity’s cameras, would be sent back to Earth in the coming days.
The helicopter will also be making its fourth flight on Mars shortly, the space agency said.
The flights are challenging due to unique conditions on the planet, mainly the rarefied atmosphere on Mars that has less than 1 percent of the density of Earth.
The Ingenuity experiment will end in one month to let Perseverance return to its main task of searching for signs of past microbial life on Mars.
Last week, NASA said it had achieved another first in its Mars mission after it converted carbon dioxide from the Martian atmosphere into pure, breathable oxygen.