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NASA's Ingenuity helicopter completes 12th Mars flight

NASA's Ingenuity helicopter completes 12th Mars flight
The shadow of NASA's Ingenuity helicopter is seen in a photo taken by the chopper during its 12th flight of Mars, during which it flew over the South Seitah region of the Red Planet for 169 seconds. Photo courtesy of NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory/Twitter

Aug. 17 (UPI) -- NASA's Ingenuity helicopter completed its 12th flight on Mars, officials said early Tuesday, as it scouts out the Martian terrain for the Perseverance land rover.

The 4-pound autonomous aircraft flew over the South Seitah region of the Red Planet, traveling a total of 1,476 feet round trip at a height of nearly 33 feet for 169 seconds, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory said via Twitter.

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"A dozen for the books!" it said. "The Mars helicopter's latest flight took us to the geological wonder that is the 'South Seitah' region."

The California-based JPL, a federally funded research and development center run by NASA and the California Institute of Technology, explained the chopper is conducting aerial scouting and captured images aiming to help the team behind NASA's Persevere determine which boulders, rocky outcrops and other geologic features "may be worthy of further scrutiny" by the land rover.

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Flight 12 was to be similar to Flight 10 in that Ingenuity was to perform scouting duties of a surface feature called "Raised Ridges" but members of Ingenuity's team said in a blog post prior to liftoff without elaborating that it could have "more impactful results."

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Ten color photographs were to be taken, the team leaders said.

The flight, they added, was to come with substantial risk due to the region's varied terrain and Ingenuity's navigation system being intended for flights across flat land, but what could be gained from the endeavor was worth the risk.

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"Knowing that we have the opportunity to help the Perseverance team with science planning by providing unique aerial footage is all the motivation needed," they said.

Perseverance is moving northwest across the southern ridge of Seitah and is expected to meet up with Ingenuity in the coming days, the JPL said.

The helicopter landed upon Mars in February while attached to the underside of the Perseverance rover, and took its median flight on April 19, climbing to about 10 feet before completing a turn and descending back to the planet's surface.

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Since then, Ingenuity has logged more than 20 minutes in Martian air, covering more than 1.2 nautical miles.

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NASA's Mars rover Perseverance captured images of Kodiak Butte, a rock outcrop in Jezero Crater that scientists said shows evidence of sediment and regular flood episodes from an ancient river and lake system. Photo courtesy of NASA

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