Ingenuity’s 10th flight on Saturday saw the four-pound drone scouting over an area of scientific interest called Raised Ridges, covering a distance of about 310 feet in just under three minutes. In addition to reaching a record altitude of 40 feet, the helicopter covered its first mile on 152nd ground (March Day) after landing with Perseverance in February.
The small helicopter was originally scheduled to perform only five test flights, a technical demonstration to see if it was actually possible to fly in the extremely difficult Martian environment. After these five successful flights, Ingenuity embarked on extremely difficult reconnaissance missions, in search of interesting terrain that the Perseverance rover could potentially visit with all of its scientific instruments. In total, the helicopter spent nearly 17 minutes in the air.
Saturday’s 10th flight saw the helicopter pass through a series of 10 waypoints, the most in a single flight, to get images of the raised ridges. Located in the ancient lake bed of Jezero Crater, the geology of the raised ridges could help scientists understand the history of this region of Mars where liquid water once flowed to the surface and where life may have existed. Scientists at the mission told a press briefing on July 21 that Perseverance would sample the raised ridges to prepare for a return to Earth.
Ingenuity’s ability to cover long distances and travel over difficult terrain makes it a great companion to the Perseverance rover. The helicopter can explore ahead of time to find interesting terrain and see if there are any destinations worth the rover to take the time to visit and inspect. Efficiency is the key to interplanetary exploration.
With 10 flights down, we hope Ingenuity can continue to push the boundaries of its historic life on Mars and continue to provide positive results to help scientists determine if life has ever appeared on Mars.