Mars helicopter Ingenuity soars on 22nd Red Planet flight

NASA's Ingenuity Mars helicopter captured this shot of its own shadow during its 22nd Red Planet flight, on March 20, 2022.
NASA's Ingenuity Mars helicopter captured this shot of its own shadow during its 22nd Red Planet flight, on March 20, 2022. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

NASA's Mars helicopter Ingenuity has done it again, soaring successfully on its 22nd Red Planet flight.

The 4-pound (1.8 kilograms) Ingenuity stayed aloft for 101.4 seconds and reached a maximum altitude of 33 feet (10 meters) during the sortie, which took place on Sunday (March 20), according to a Monday (March 21) tweet by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Southern California, which manages Ingenuity's mission.

Ingenuity and NASA's Perseverance rover landed together inside Mars' Jezero Crater in February 2021. Jezero hosted a lake and a river delta billions of years ago, making it a great spot for the life-hunting, sample-caching Perseverance to explore, NASA officials have said.

Related: 1 year later, Ingenuity helicopter still going strong on Mars

The little chopper quickly aced its five-flight original mission, which was designed to show that aerial exploration is possible on Mars. After this success, NASA granted Ingenuity a mission extension, during which the rotorcraft has been serving as a scout for Perseverance. 

The rover's handlers are currently steering Perseverance toward an accessible part of the ancient delta, and Ingenuity's observations are helping them pick the best route, mission team members have said.

During its first 21 flights, Ingenuity flew a total of 15,247 feet (4,647 m) and stayed in the air for nearly 39 minutes, according to a flight log maintained by the mission team

Those numbers should continue to grow beyond the additions provided by Sunday's flight; Ingenuity is in good health, JPL officials have said, and NASA recently extended the helicopter's operations again, through at least this September.

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 on Facebook.  

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Mike Wall
Senior Space Writer

Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with and joined the team in 2010. He primarily covers exoplanets, spaceflight and military space, but has been known to dabble in the space art beat. 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.