Ingenuity Gets a New Assignment –

NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter got a new assignment today. Designed as a technology demonstrator simply to prove it could fly on Mars, NASA is so delighted with the results that now Ingenuity will move into an operational role supporting the Perseverance rover as it begins its scientific exploration of the Red Planet.

Ingenuity completed its fourth flight today. NASA was planning a total of five over a 30-day period to test the tiny helicopter’s capabilities. The flights have gone so well that all the test objectives were achieved in just three. Today’s flight, and the fifth, expected next week, are basically bonuses allowing project engineers to fly faster and further to see what happens.

The 1.8 kilogram (4 pound) helicopter arrived at Mars in the “belly” of the Perseverance rover. As a technology demonstration, it has secondary status to Perseverance’s scientific mission searching for signs of ancient life on Mars and collecting samples that will be…