NASA has announced it is extending its Mars helicopter mission. It said the first three flights of the drone, called Ingenuity, had worked so well it would now be moving from a demonstration to an operational phase. This means the chopper will now support NASA’s Perseverance Rover, helping with its hunt for signs of life.
The new phase will last for another 30 Martian days but the team said they’re hopeful it could be extended further. Ingenuity’s flight on 19 April made history as the first powered flight on another planet. The 1.8kg chopper lifted off in the extremely thin Martian atmosphere and hovered at a height of 2 metres for about 40 seconds before landing.
For its second and third flight, it flew further afield, rising to a height of 5 metres before speeding off laterally for 50 metres and then returning to its landing spot. Now Ingenuity will be helping out with the science programme.