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Mars helicopter wins 4th flight and will get an additional month of flight

CAP CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) – NASA’s small helicopter on Mars has been granted a keep.

As a substitute of finishing flight checks in early Might, NASA is giving its Ingenuity helicopter not less than an additional month to deal with new difficult terrain and function a scout for its companion rover, Perseverance.

Officers introduced the flight extension on Friday, after three quick flights in lower than two weeks for the $ 85 million tech demo. Quickly after, there was extra excellent news: Ingenuity – the primary powered plane to fly to a different planet – had made its fourth flight to Mars.

For Friday’s journey, Ingenuity hiked 872 ft (266 meters) at a top of 16 ft (5 meters) for 2 minutes – a lot additional and longer than earlier than. An try on Thursday had failed attributable to a identified software program error.

On its fifth flight in a few week, the 4-pound (1.8-kilogram) helicopter will transfer to a brand new airfield on Mars, permitting the rover to lastly start to focus by itself rock-sampling mission. The rover seems to be for indicators of historic life at Jezero Crater, dwelling to a lush lake mattress and river delta billions of years in the past.

The helicopter staff at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., Plan to conduct a sixth and seventh flight in Might. The earlier restrict was 5. If all goes effectively, the helicopter mission might final even longer.

“Ingenuity loves Mars,” venture supervisor MiMi Aung informed reporters. “It takes off and I virtually really feel the liberty it feels.”

Now, perseverance will take precedence, exploring the rocks across the February 18 touchdown web site. Ingenuity hitchhiked on Mars on the stomach of the rover, departing from Cape Canaveral final summer time. Managers count on the rover to gather its first pattern in July for its return to Earth in a decade.

The rover will proceed to relay knowledge and pictures from the helicopter, however will cease taking its personal helicopter photographs. The 2 spacecraft should be inside half a mile (1 kilometer) of one another, for the communication relay.

Designed to function on Mars for 30 days, Ingenuity can doubtless survive the frigid nights of Mars – and repeated flights within the extraordinarily skinny ambiance – for not less than a number of extra months.

“We’re actually anticipating a finite life,” Aung stated, “and so will probably be a race between how lengthy these items catch us surviving.”

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The Related Press’s Division of Well being and Science receives assist from the Division of Science Schooling on the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. The AP is solely chargeable for all content material.

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