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Mars helicopter Ingenuity aces 7th flight on the Red Planet

NASA's Mars helicopter Ingenuity took this photo of its own shadow with its navigation camera during its seventh Red Planet flight, on June 8, 2021.
NASA's Mars helicopter Ingenuity took this photo of its own shadow with its navigation camera during its seventh Red Planet flight, on June 8, 2021. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech via Twitter)

NASA's Mars helicopter Ingenuity now has seven Red Planet flights under its belt.

The 4-lb. (1.8 kilograms) chopper took to the Martian skies again on Tuesday (June 8), making its first sortie since battling through an in-flight anomaly on May 22. And there were no problems this time around.

"From a helicopter team member: 'No anomalies in flight 7, Ingenuity is healthy!' NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), which manages Ingenuity's mission, wrote via Twitter on Tuesday evening

Video: See the view on Mars from Ingenuity helicopter's fourth flight

Ingenuity lifted off around 12:34 local mean solar time on Tuesday, which corresponds to 11:54 a.m. EDT (1554 GMT). As planned, the chopper then traveled 348 feet (106 meters) south from its previous location on the floor of Mars' Jezero Crater, staying aloft for nearly 63 seconds, JPL officials wrote in another tweet. The solar-powered rotorcraft set down at a new airfield, the fourth one it has reached since landing on the Red Planet with NASA's Perseverance rover on Feb. 18.

Ingenuity deployed from Perseverance's belly on April 3. That milestone started the clock ticking on the helicopter's 30-day flight campaign, which was designed to show that powered, controlled flight is possible in the Red Planet's thin air.

Ingenuity performed five flights during that technology-demonstrating campaign, then embarked on an extended mission, which aims to showcase the scouting potential of Martian rotorcraft. 

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The first flight of that extended phase, the May 22 sortie, did not go entirely smoothly: Ingenuity suffered a glitch that briefly interrupted the flow of photos from its navigation camera to its onboard computer. But the chopper powered through the problem, managing to land safely near its intended destination. And there were no lasting issues, if Tuesday's success is any guide.

Perseverance captured video and, at times, audio of Ingenuity's first five flights. But the car-size rover then relinquished its documentarian role to start focusing on its science mission, which is devoted to hunting for signs of ancient Mars life and collecting samples for future return to Earth.

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to state that the flight occurred on Tuesday (June 8), not Sunday (June 6).

Mike Wall is the author of "Out There" (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.

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Mike Wall
SPACE.COM SENIOR SPACE WRITER — Michael has been writing for Space.com since 2010. His book about the search for alien life, "Out There," was published on Nov. 13, 2018. Before becoming a science writer, Michael worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Michael on Twitter.