NASA has announced that it is extending the mission of the Ingenuity helicopter, which has been operating on the surface of the Red Planet for days. NASA has announced that it will keep the helicopter flying for another 30 days, with the potential for more testing time through an extended mission. NASA says the extended mission will test the helicopter’s ability to reconnect, probably meaning exploring the planet in search of places of interest for possible future exploration.
Originally, Ingenuity was to operate for 30 days on the surface of Mars as a technology demonstration mission to test whether controlled flight was possible on another planet. There was some concern that the helicopter might not fly, given the thickness of the Martian atmosphere, but the helicopter performed well on test flights. With the mission extended, NASA will switch Ingenuity to what it calls an “operations demonstration phase” to test additional features for the aircraft.
NASA Director of the Planetary Science Division Lori Glaze said there is scope to expand the demonstration of Naivety to a new phase after evaluating the strategies of the science of Perseverance. With Ingenuity entering a new phase of operational demonstration, the team that manages the helicopter says it is “extremely happy and proud”. Ingenuity project manager MiMi Aung says it’s as if Ingenuity is moving from the test demonstration phase to a new demonstration phase, where the team can show how the helicopter can be used for exploration and science missions.
So far, Ingenuity’s flight tests have seen it rise from the surface and hover, not moving too far from the Perseverance rover. The rover took some pictures of Mars and the surrounding landscape. The Ingenuity team has conducted three successful test flights so far and was initially scheduled to stop after 30 days and up to five test flights so that Perseverance could move forward with its scientific mission.