NASA’s tiny Ingenuity helicopter made its third successful flight on Mars early Sunday, and flew higher and faster than it did even when it was being tested on Earth. At about 1:31 AM ET, the helicopter ascended 16 feet and flew 164 feet during its 80 second third flight, at a top speed of 6.6 feet per second.
NASA received the flight data shortly after 10AM ET. “Today’s flight was what we planned for, and yet it was nothing short of amazing,” NASA’s Dave Lavery said in a statement. “With this flight, we are demonstrating critical capabilities that will enable the addition of an aerial dimension to future Mars missions.”
In its second mission on Thursday, Ingenuity made a 51.9-second flight, traveling seven feet. For Ingenuity’s first flight on April 19th, the little craft lifted 10 feet off the surface of Mars for 39 seconds.
Ingenuity arrived on Mars February 18th with its parent rover Perseverance, whose mission is to look for signs of life and take Martian soil samples. While Ingenuity isn’t the main focus of the Perseverance mission, its ability to fly in Mars’ thin atmosphere will provide data useful for future explorations of Mars.
NASA says it’s planning a fourth flight for Ingenuity in a few days.