Mars helicopter Ingenuity soars between Red Planet airfields on 46th flight

shadow of helicopter on ground of mars in black and white
Shown here is a still image from the Mars helicopter Ingenuity on April 8, 2022. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Ingenuity hopped a third of a mile on the Red Planet as it shifted between airfields.

Ingenuity, the Mars helicopter drone accompanying the Perseverance rover mission, racked up its 46th flight on Saturday (Feb. 25), NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory announced yesterday (March 1).

The goal of the flight was to "reposition of the helicopter and [to] scout future airfields," agency officials wrote in a flight briefing.

The drone flew for about 1,460 feet (445 meters) on the Martian surface between airfields "Eta" and "Theta," according to the helicopter's flight log. Ingenuity reached a typical 39-foot altitude (12 meters) and achieved a top speed of 11.9 mph (5.3 meters per second) during the 135.9-second flight.

Related: How NASA will launch Mars samples off the Red Planet

Ingenuity is about to exceed its original five-flight manifest by 10 fold, as the four-pound (1.8 kg) shoots for its 50th flight in the coming weeks.

The helicopter was the first ever to fly on Mars, arriving in Jezero Crater in February 2022 underneath the belly of Perseverance. Now that it has proven itself without a doubt to be fully operational, Ingenuity's mandate has expanded to assisting Percy with the search for ancient life in Jezero Crater, the site of an ancient river delta.

NASA's Ingenuity Mars Helicopter flies above sand dunes on its 25th flight on April 18, 2022. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

NASA now plans to include two sample helicopters on a joint mission with the European Space Agency to return samples from Mars. Percy is supposed to bring samples to the lander itself, but if it is unable to, the two backup helicopters will pick up identical lightsaber-shaped sample tubes Percy has been caching on the surface

Ingenuity and Perseverance alike are in the midst of an eight-month campaign, nicknamed "Delta Top." They are working in a region that appears to have once had a lake and a river delta that may have hosted life billions of years ago. 

Elizabeth Howell is the co-author of "Why Am I Taller?" (ECW Press, 2022; with Canadian astronaut Dave Williams), a book about space medicine. Follow her on Twitter @howellspace. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: