Daily US Times: The US space agency Nasa has announced it is extending its Mars helicopter mission.
Nasa said the first three flights of the drone had worked so well it would now be moving from a demonstration to an operational phase.
This means the chopper, called Ingenuity, will now support Nasa’s Perseverance Rover, helping with its hunt for signs of life.
The new phase will last for another 30 Martian days – or Sols – but Nasa said they’re hopeful it could be extended further.
MiMi Aung, Ingenuity’s project manager, said: “The technical performance has been fantastic and it is exceeding all our expectations.”
“I can’t tell you how excited we are about this new phase,” Aung said.
On 19 April, Ingenuity’s flight made history as the first powered flight on another planet.
The 1.8kg drone lifted off in the extremely thin Martian atmosphere and hovered at a height of 2 metres for about 40 seconds before landing.
For its second and third flight, it flew further afield, rising to a height of 5 metres before speeding off laterally for 50 metres and then returning to its landing spot.
Nasa’s original plan was to then carry out two more flights by the helicopter, before grounding Ingenuity to bring the technology demonstration to a close.
But Friday’s announcement is a change of course as Nasa said it is so pleased with the helicopter’s performance, it wants to push Ingenuity further.
Ingenuity’s chief engineer Bob Balaram said: “It’s been riding the winds, it’s been taking off great, all the engineering systems, the solar panel, the battery, the radio have all been working very well – everything has just been fantastic.”