The Ingenuity helicopter has successfully flown for the third time on Mars in a week and it was faster, farther and bolder than the previous ones. The helicopter flew at 1:31 a.m. ET, or 12:33 p.m. local Mars time. It climbed to the same altitude from its second flight — about 16 feet (5 meters) above the Martian surface — but this time it increased its speed. The chopper has boosted that speed to 4.5 miles per hour (2 meters per second). Ingenuity flew 164 feet (50 meters) north, almost half the length of a football field, before returning to touch down at its landing site. All total, the helicopter flew for about 80 seconds. “Today’s flight was what we planned for, and yet it was nothing short of amazing,” said Dave Lavery, the project’s program executive at NASA headquarters in Washington.The Perseverance rover, which serves as a communication relay between the helicopter and its mission team on Earth, is acting as a bit of a documentary filmmaker for Ingenuity.
Ingenuity, a technology demonstration, still has another week to conduct two more flights before the 31-day mission comes to an end. The fourth flight will likely occur within a few days. “With this flight, we are demonstrating critical capabilities that will enable the addition of an aerial dimension to future Mars missions,” the NASA team said.