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Mars helicopter Ingenuity scores another safe flight on Red Planet

NASA's Mars helicopter Ingenuity on Mars is still going strong, notching its 11th Red Planet flight on Thursday (Aug. 5).

The flight, which saw the little chopper travel 1,250 feet (380 meters), was designed to get Ingenuity to a set location that the helicopter will now make its base for one or more geology reconnaissance flights of South Séítah, a rugged patch of ground on the floor of Mars' Jezero Crater.

According to a flight plan published on Wednesday (Aug. 4), Ingenuity woke up for its sortie at about 12:30 p.m. local time on Mars, which was this morning at 12:47 a.m. EDT (0447 GMT) on Earth, and lifted off three minutes later. The flight was designed to see the helicopter climb to an altitude of 39 feet (12 m) and reach speeds of 11 mph (18 kph).

Related: These selfies of NASA's Mars helicopter with the Perseverance rover are just amazing

A photograph of the Ingenuity helicopter's shadow taken by the vehicle during its 11th flight on Mars, executed on Aug. 5, 2021. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

The mission team, which is based at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California, confirmed in a tweet that the flight was successful and lasted 130.9 seconds, but has not yet provided more details about the excursion.

Today's flight is part of an ongoing campaign to use Ingenuity as a scout for its much larger companion, NASA's Perseverance rover. While the rover carries much more sophisticated scientific equipment than Ingenuity does, it's not nearly as agile, and its drivers need to monitor the terrain it tackles closely.

Read more: NASA has plans for bigger, more capable Mars helicopters

Ingenuity is perfectly poised to provide just that type of information. Today's flight carried the helicopter to a new landing site within a region scientists have dubbed South Séítah. The area is characterized by sandy ripples that could stymie the rover, according to previous statements about the helicopter's work.

For this flight, Ingenuity kept its work to a minimum, although the helicopter should have gathered a few color photos and the materials for a 3D stereo image of its new home base. The little helicopter's next excursion should be a reconnaissance flight of South Séítah, the mission team has said, and additional such flights could follow.

Email Meghan Bartels at mbartels@space.com or follow her on Twitter @meghanbartels. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

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Meghan Bartels

Meghan is a senior writer at Space.com and has more than five years' experience as a science journalist based in New York City. She joined Space.com in July 2018, with previous writing published in outlets including Newsweek and Audubon. Meghan earned an MA in science journalism from New York University and a BA in classics from Georgetown University, and in her free time she enjoys reading and visiting museums. Follow her on Twitter at @meghanbartels.