“With the Mars Helicopter’s flight success today, we crossed its one-mile total distance flown to date,” Nasa officials from the space agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) wrote in an Instagram post late Saturday.
According to Nasa, this flight was the chopper’s most complex yet, with over 10 waypoints it had to cover in its path.
During its flight, the Mars helicopter took off from its sixth airfield, and attained a new record maximum flight altitude of 12 metres, covering about 95m in 165 seconds.
It also took bird’s eye view pictures of a region of the Red Planet called the Raised Ridges to which Nasa is considering sending its Perseverance rover.
“Flight 10 will target an area called the “Raised Ridges” (RR), named for the geographic features that start approximately 164 feet (50 metres) south-by-southwest of our current location,” the American space agency noted in an earlier statement.
“We will be imaging Raised Ridges because it’s an area that Perseverance scientists find intriguing and are considering visiting sometime in the future,” Nasa said.
The images taken by the rotorcraft of the Raised Ridges region from its different waypoints will be combined and the overlapping data from a combination of them would be used to generate combined stereo images, the space agency said.
While originally designed to make only four demo runs on Mars as a proof of concept for flight on another world, the 1.8kg helicopter has far exceeded its mission, and is currently used to conduct reconnaissance for the Perseverance rover to find places it could inspect with its onboard scientific instruments.
“Aerial scouting aids the Perseverance Mars rover team in deciding what moves to make next,” Nasa officials noted.
The chopper has so far had two separate flight-software updates which have improved its ability to fly and capture colour images.