The Mars helicopter Ingenuity now has flown more than 42,369 feet across the surface of Mars. The highest altitude it has reached is a little less than 60 feet above the surface of the Red Planet. Illustration courtesy of NASA
Aug. 31 (UPI) -- Ingenuity, the tiny helicopter that has far surpassed expectations on Mars, has completed its 56th flight, NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab announced Thursday.
Ingenuity flew 1,334 feet, a little over a quarter of a mile, across the Martian surface last Saturday, JPL said in a statement. The tiny chopper flew at a maximum altitude of about 39 feet above the surface of the Red Planet.
"The goal of this flight was to reposition the helicopter," the statement reads.
The $80 million helicopter first flew at what has been called the Wright Brothers Airfield on the Martian surface in April 2021.
The helicopter was meant to demonstrate powered, controlled flight on another world for the first time, according to NASA. The test was meant to take place over a 30-Martian-day experimental window.
The technology demonstration was completed after three successful flights and Ingenuity transitioned to a new operations demonstration phase "to explore how future rovers and aerial explorers can work together."
NASA officials told UPI on Wednesday that the helicopter will continue mapping the planet's surface as long as it can still fly.
In total, the helicopter has now flown more than 42,369 feet across the surface of the planet, or a little over eight miles. The highest altitude it has reached is a little less than 60 feet above the surface of Mars.
However, Ingenuity went silent on April 26, leading its controllers to fear that it was destroyed by the harsh temperatures on the fourth planet from the sun.
But then, on June 28, Ingenuity phoned home via the Perseverance rover -- the first word from the chopper since it went silent on the floor of the Jezero Crater after its 52nd flight.
"Demonstrating coordination between Perseverance and Ingenuity remains a main goal," Joshua Anderson, Ingenuity's team lead at JPL, told UPI.
NASA is now working on creating more lightweight helicopters to assist retrieving Martian samples to be loaded into a rocket-propelled container ready to carry them to Earth.