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Ingenuity Mars Helicopter Races NASA's Rover to the Ancient River Delta

NASA's Ingenuity helicopter is getting closer to the ancient river delta, a region that could hold crucial clues about the Red Planet's wet past. With one left flight to go, the little helicopter is trying to keep up with the Perseverance rover, which is also heading to the delta.
Ingenuity snapped this image of the terrain underneath during Flight 24 6 photos
Ingenuity snapped this image of the terrain underneath during Flight 24Ingenuity snapped this image of the terrain underneath during Flight 24Ingenuity snapped this image of the terrain underneath during Flight 24Ingenuity snapped this image of the terrain underneath during Flight 24This image shows three options for Ingenuity to take on flights out of the “Séítah” region, as well as the location of the entry, descent, and landing hardware
Over the weekend, Ingenuity took to the skies and successfully completed Flight 24 on Mars. To get closer to the delta, the rotorcraft had to cross the Séítah region of Jezero Crater, an area characterized by dunes and rocky terrain. This is the fourth flight out of five that the helicopter has to make to exit Séítah and arrive at its final destination.

The reason why Ingenuity has to perform several short trips over this region is that flying over non-flat terrain is a challenging task. It's risky to execute maneuvers or land when underneath the surface is filled with hills, large boulders, and dunes.

Another challenge that the team behind Ingenuity has to prepare for is the presence of hardware from Perseverance's entry, descent, and landing, which includes the parachutes and backshell. The rotorcraft will have to pass by the rover's landing site in the Jezero Crater and avoid all of the obstacles in its way. The goal is to find a large enough landing spot that doesn't have any rocks, slopes, or rover hardware.

While Ingenuity prepares for Flight 25, which will take it out of Séítah, Perseverance is making some good progress on its journey to the river delta. It is essential that Ingenuity keeps pace in order to get to the delta before the rover. Because Ingenuity only communicates with the helicopter base station located on Perseverance, it must stay near the car-sized rover to maintain a good connection. The rotorcraft must also fly ahead of Perseverance to avoid getting too close to it.

For the upcoming flight, Ingenuity will attempt to fly 704 meters (2.310 ft) to the northwest. That will break the record achieved during Flight 9 when it covered a 625-meter (2,051-ft) distance. The helicopter will also try to break its speed record as well and travel at a 12.3 mph (19.8 kph) speed.



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