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NASA's Mars helicopter Ingenuity aces post-glitch seventh flight

"No anomalies in flight 7, Ingenuity is healthy!"

Ingenuity snapped this view of its shadow with its navigation camera during its seventh flight.

NASA/JPL-Caltech
This story is part of Welcome to Mars, our series exploring the red planet.

There were some tense moments with NASA's Ingenuity Mars helicopter last month when it went wonky during its sixth flight. But the plucky chopper survived the in-flight anomaly, set itself down safely, and then proved its mettle by completing a seventh flight.

On Friday, NASA had announced it was aiming for no earlier than Sunday, June 6, for the next leg in Ingenuity's epic journey. It takes time to get data and updates from Mars, so we had to wait for the report. On Tuesday, NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab tweeted that flight seven was a success.

While the tech glitch on the earlier flight was concerning, the Perseverance rover was able to confirm that Ingenuity landed itself in a safe spot. The most recent flight lasted 62.8 seconds and took the rotorcraft to a new location 350 feet (106 meters) away.

NASA shared an important message from a helicopter team member: "No anomalies in flight 7, Ingenuity is healthy!"

The seventh flight marked the second time the helicopter set itself down on a landing site it hadn't previously surveyed from the air. The Ingenuity team used data from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter "that suggests this new base of operations is relatively flat and has few surface obstructions."

Ingenuity was designed as an experiment, a technology demonstration. It has proven that powered, controlled flight is possible on another planet and is now in a new phase of operations in which NASA is exploring how it can be used as a scout and assistant for the Perseverance rover. 

Ingenuity is already considered a success, and each new flight is a bonus.

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