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 (opens in new tab) 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 (opens in new tab).
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 (opens in new tab). 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.(opens in new tab)
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 (opens in new tab)?" (ECW Press, 2022; with Canadian astronaut Dave Williams), a book about space medicine. Follow her on Twitter @howellspace (opens in new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab) or Facebook (opens in new tab).