Wed, 04 Aug 2021

ORLANDO, Florida: NASA's helicopter Ingenuity has proven so successful that it will be allowed to fly 30 days beyond what was originally planned.

NASA officials said that Ingenuity would as act a scout for the rover Perseverance in its new role.

Engineers decided to allow the helicopter to operate longer flights to new areas of Jezero Crater. NASA originally was to end all helicopter flights at the end of April.

"We will be celebrating each day the Ingenuity survives and operates beyond the original window," said MiMi Aung, NASA's project manager for the aircraft.

During Ingenuity's fourth flight on April 29, the helicopter flew to an elevation of 436 feet and then returned to the surface, remaining in the air for 117 seconds, according to Aung.

"We also managed to capture lots of images during the flight with the color camera and with Ingenuity's black-and-white navigation camera, which tracks surface features as it flies," she wrote on a NASA blog.

Referring to the continuation of the helicopter's mission, she wrote, "It's like Ingenuity is graduating from the test demo phase to a new phase ... where we can show how such a rotorcraft can be used."

NASA designed the helicopter for only a 30-day demonstration to see if flights on Mars were possible.

Plans called for Perseverance to drive away from Ingenuity, leaving it behind, since the rover's mission is to drill for rock samples that may show signs of ancient life on Mars.
Ingenuity communicates with Earth through the Perseverance rover.

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