Mars helicopter Ingenuity aces 18th Red Planet flight (video)

NASA’s Mars helicopter Ingenuity has soared by way of alien skies but once more.

“The #MarsHelicopter keeps going, going, going! Ingenuity successfully completed its 18th flight, adding 124.3 seconds to its overall time aloft on the Red Planet,” officers with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Southern California, which manages Ingenuity’s pioneering mission, said via Twitter at this time (Dec. 17).

Ingenuity coated 754 toes (230 meters) of floor whereas cruising at 5.6 mph (9.0 kph) throughout the flight, which happened on Wednesday (Dec. 15), JPL officers added. 

Related: It’s getting harder to fly the Ingenuity helicopter on Mars

The 4-lb. (1.8 kilograms) Ingenuity landed final February with NASA’s Perseverance rover on the ground of the 28-mile-wide (45 kilometers) Jezero Crater, which hosted an enormous lake and a river delta billions of years in the past.

Ingenuity’s primary aim was to point out that powered flight is feasible within the skinny air of Mars. The little chopper checked off that field over the course of 5 preliminary flights, then shifted into an prolonged mission throughout which it has been pushing its limits and serving as a scout for the life-hunting, sample-caching Perseverance.

The rotorcraft has carried out extraordinarily effectively, racking up a powerful set of off-Earth accomplishments. Ingenuity has now spent practically 33 minutes aloft within the Martian air, for instance, and visited 10 totally different Red Planet airfields.

“Few thought we would make it to flight one, fewer still to five. And no one thought we would make it this far,” Ingenuity staff lead Teddy Tzanetos of JPL said in a statement earlier this week. “The aircraft’s continued operations speaks to the robustness [of] the design and the diligence and passion of our small operations team.”

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That’s to not recommend that it has all been completely clean crusing for the little chopper. For instance, throughout its sixth flight, which happened on May 23, Ingenuity suffered a glitch that interrupted the stream of navigation photos to its onboard laptop. 

And the communications hyperlink between Ingenuity and Perseverance was disrupted throughout the chopper’s descent on flight 17, which occurred on Dec. 5. This complication delayed the mission staff’s evaluation of the sortie, which was finally decided to be a whole success. (All of the helicopter’s information and imagery attain Earth by way of Perseverance and Mars orbiters.)

Some folks have speculated that the Dec. 5 communications dropout could also be linked to log4j, a extensively used programming code developed by the nonprofit Apache Software Foundation that was just lately revealed to have a flaw that may depart it susceptible to hackers. But this isn’t the case, JPL officers mentioned, pointing as a substitute to a way more prosaic trigger.

“NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter doesn’t run Apache or log4j, neither is it prone to the log4j vulnerability. NASA takes cybersecurity very significantly and, because of this, we don’t focus on specifics relating to the cybersecurity of agency belongings,” JPL officers wrote in an update Thursday (Dec. 16).

“The interruption in data communications between the Ingenuity helicopter and the base station on the Perseverance rover during flight 17 occurred when the signal was blocked by elevated terrain between the two as Ingenuity descended at the end of the flight,” they added. “Effectively, Ingenuity ‘flew behind a hill’ or out of the rover’s line of sight, briefly interrupting high-speed communications between the two spacecraft.”

Mike Wall is the creator of “Out There” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a ebook in regards to the seek for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or on Facebook

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