Ingenuity completes 4th Mars flight, breaks even more records (PHOTOS, VIDEOS)

NASA’s Ingenuity mission continues to break records on the Red Planet, flying faster and farther than ever before, scouting ahead of the Perseverance rover in the ongoing search for microbial life.

The rotocopter looks set to surpass its original month-long mission, though NASA engineers are unsure just how long the plucky 1.8kg (4lb) probe can last. Further extensions to the Ingenuity mission will depend on how well it survives prolonged usage and whether it is providing additional benefit to the rover’s goal of collecting soil and rock samples.

“We’re going to gather information on the operational support capability of the helicopter while Perseverance focuses on its science mission,” Lori Glaze, director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division, said.

Having flown farther and faster than expected, Ingenuity’s prospects on the Red Planet are wide open: It may continue to serve as a companion to the Perseverance rover, helping to guide it towards the best soil and rock samples, or it may instead serve as a pathfinder for future human traversal of the Martian landscape.

However, given that Mars nights can reach temperatures of -130F (-90C), engineers are unsure how many freeze and thaw cycles the microcopter can handle. 

The Perseverance team hopes to gather their first rock sample from a rocky outcrop in the Jezero Crater in July.

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Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU/MSSS
Let there be flight! Incredible video shows NASA’s Ingenuity fly farther and faster than ever before on Mars

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