NASA Mars Ingenuity helicopter bounces back after anomaly for flight 14

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Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
Amanda Kooser
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The Ingenuity helicopter spotted its own shadow during its short 14th hop-flight.


NASA's overachieving Ingenuity rotorcraft is flying pretty on Mars once again. The plucky machine logged its 14th flight after chilling out for a few weeks on the Martian surface during Mars solar conjunction, a sort of mission vacation that occurs every couple of years when the sun muddies up communications between Earth and the red planet.

Humanity's robotic explorers -- including Ingenuity's companion Perseverance rover -- are now in regular touch with Earth and back to work on their science missions. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory tweeted Ingenuity's view of its own shadow on Monday when announcing that flight 14 is in the books.

Ingenuity is dealing with being a helicopter on Mars as the seasons change and flight conditions become more challenging. To compensate, the chopper's team has been testing out higher rotor speeds. 

"The Mars helicopter successfully performed a short hop in its current airfield to test out higher rpm settings so it can fly in lower atmospheric densities on the red planet," JPL tweeted. "This test also leaves the team room for an rpm increase if needed for future flights."

Ingenuity -- which made history earlier this year with the first powered, controlled flight on another planet -- outlived its original mission and is now acting as an aerial scout for Perseverance. The helicopter's observations are useful for planning the rover's path across the rocky landscape.

The rotorcraft was originally going to try for its 14th flight before Mars solar conjunction, but an anomaly stopped it from taking off. The successful post-conjunction hop suggests Ingenuity is in good shape and ready to continue its pioneering mission. 

Watch this: A year in the life of NASA's Mars Perseverance rover