NASA’s small Ingenuity helicopter made its third successful flight to Mars early Sunday, and flew higher and faster than it even did when tested on Earth. At approximately 1:31 AM ET, the helicopter climbed 16 feet and flew 164 feet during its third 80-second flight, at a top speed of 6.6 feet per second.
“Today’s flight was what we planned for, and yet it was nothing short of amazing,” David Lavery, the project’s program executive, said in a press release.
“With this flight, we are demonstrating critical capabilities that will enable the addition of an aerial dimension to future Mars missions.”
“Flight three is a big step, one in which Ingenuity will begin to experience freedom in the sky,” Håvard Grip, Ingenuity’s chief pilot, wrote Friday before the excursion.
Ingenuity’s team plans to push the helicopter to its limits – even if it crashes. “We really want to push the rotorcraft flights to the limit and really learn and get information back from that,” MiMi Aung, the project manager for Ingenuity, said in a recent press briefing.