A Mars drone busted out some midair moves on the Red Planet during its latest flight.
The 47th flight of Ingenuity on March 9 was expected to scout out science targets to the southwest ahead of bringing Perseverance in the direction to seek out evidence of ancient life on Mars, according to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory's flight briefing.
The flight covered 1,444 feet (440 meters) of flight distance and brought Ingenuity to a new pit stop, nicknamed Airfield Iota in the flight log, after several previous flights between existing airfields. Ingenuity's top speed hit a typical 11.9 mph (5.3 meters per second), and the drone remains in good health as it shoots for Flight 50 in a few weeks.
Ingenuity and Perseverance also worked together to send home more imagery of the flight than usual, using satellites in orbit around the Red Planet and NASA's Deep Space Network, a busy set of antennas on Earth keeping track of deep-space missions.
Footage taken on Ingenuity's downward-looking black-and-white navigation camera shows Martian dunes whipping by underneath as the drone flew as high as 39 feet (12 meters), a typical altitude for these flights. Perseverance captured Ingenuity's soaring from afar using the rover's Mast-Z long-range camera.
Ingenuity is not only scouting for Perseverance, but also serving as a testbed ahead of NASA's and the European Space Agency's sample return mission. Should Percy be unable to ferry the samples it picked up to a waiting spacecraft in 2033 or so, two backup helicopters will pick up twin lightsaber-shaped sample tubes the rover has been caching on the surface.
Perseverance and Ingenuity are together working on an eight-month campaign, nicknamed "Delta Top," exploring a region that may have had a life-friendly river delta and lake 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.