The 10 flights of NASA's Ingenuity Mars helicopter in one chart

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ingenuity helicopter mars
NASA's Ingenuity helicopter, photographed on Mars by the Perseverance rover on April 4, 2021. NASA/JPL-Caltech
  • NASA's Ingenuity helicopter has been zipping over Martian terrain since April.

  • Recent journeys have taken the chopper farther south over more treacherous landscape.

  • One map shows where Ingenuity has traveled. Another chart shows how far each flight has gone.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Last weekend, NASA's Ingenuity helicopter lifted off on Mars for the 10th time - double the number of flights initially planned for the 4-pound drone.

The rotorcraft was meant as a technology demonstration to prove that NASA could conduct a powered, controlled flight on another planet. The agency expected Ingenuity to crash on its fourth or fifth flight, as it was pushed to its limits, but the helicopter continued to fly faster and farther than engineers thought possible.

Ingenuity's 10th flight, on Saturday, set a record for altitude: The helicopter rose nearly 40 feet in the air - about 23 feet higher than its first flight. It also went faster than ever in its ninth and tenth flights, moving at 11 miles per hour. Compare that to roughly 1 mph during its slowest journey in April.

The chart below compares Ingenuity's altitude, maximum speed, and distance flown over all 10 flights.

ingenuity mars helicopter flights
Shayanne Gal/Insider

In total, the helicopter has flown more than one mile so far. Its ninth flight covered the most distance: more than 2,000 feet in a single leg.

An extended mission for Ingenuity

In May, NASA gave Ingenuity a new mission: The helicopter is now flying to new areas that have never been surveyed before, scouting and mapping the Martian landscape below, snapping images of intriguing rock outcrops and ridges, and testing operations that NASA might want to conduct with future space helicopters.

Ingenuity's flights have taken it south from its original landing site, dubbed "Wright Brothers Field." The following map shows where the helicopter has traveled during its first nine flights.

ingenuity flight path
Ingenuity's flight path over Mars. NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

All of Ingenuity's flights have taken place in Mars' Jezero Crater - a 28-mile-wide impact basin that was filled with water about 3.5 billion years ago. The helicopter traveled there in the belly of the Perseverance rover in February.

During its first flight in April, Ingenuity hovered in the same spot where it had landed two months prior.

Its next three flights tested the limits of how far it could fly: around 13 feet, 328 feet, and 873 feet, respectively. Each time, Ingenuity returned to its landing spot in Wright Brothers Field.

Mars ingenuity helicopter nasa perseverance rover
The Ingenuity helicopter on Mars, sitting where the Perseverance rover dropped it, April 5, 2021. NASA/JPL-Caltech

During its fifth flight, Ingenuity traveled 423 feet south to a site called "Airfield B" that it had previously flown over, photographed, and mapped. That time, it didn't turn back. Since then, Ingenuity has made only one-way trips to new areas.

Flight six marked the first time that Ingenuity flew toward a spot it hadn't previously surveyed: "Airfield C." The 705-foot journey required more precise maneuvering and navigation than the previous flights.

That wound up being the helicopter's most precarious trip to date: About 54 seconds into the flight, a glitch caused Ingenuity's navigation system to receive incorrect information about its location. This led the helicopter to wobble in mid-air, tilting more than 20 degrees from one side to the other. Despite the hiccup, Ingenuity touched down safely within about 16 feet of its target spot.

Ingenuity helicopter tilt footage during sixth flight
This sequence of images - taken on May 22, 2021 by Ingenuity's navigation camera - depicts the last 29 seconds of its sixth flight, when it began tilting back and forth. NASA/JPL-Caltech

The helicopter's remaining flights took it even farther south - it traveled around 348 feet during its seventh trip, and 525 during its eighth trip.

Ingenuity's ninth trip was a "nail-biter," NASA scientists said, since the helicopter had to cross over particularly treacherous terrain on its journey southwest. Rocky or rippled land can distort Ingenuity's field of view, causing it to veer in the wrong direction. The helicopter touched down on the outskirts of its new landing spot, "Airfield F," on July 5.

More than three weeks later, flight 10 took Ingenuity toward a collection of rock features called "Raised Ridges," where water once might have flowed.

NASA engineers haven't said when Ingenuity's mission will end, but the helicopter could keep flying as long as it stays alive and doesn't interfere with the nearby science work of the Perseverance rover.

This article was originally published on July 23, 2021 and has been updated to include information about flight 10.

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