NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter has successfully completed a 14th flight on Mars — its first since a two-week blackout caused by the Red Planet’s position in space.

The US space agency was forced to pause most of its robotic Mars missions for safety reasons when the planet moved behind the sun from Earth’s perspective earlier this month.

Engineers were concerned that the solar combination might cause ‘unexpected behavior’ from the spacecraft if it tried to communicate with them. Therefore, they paused all missions and gave each one a task to complete.

It appears that Ingenuity did not suffer any adverse effects from the phenomenon. It happens every two years. Ingenuity flew a short hop’ Monday to check the summer weather conditions at its location in the Red Planet.

Jezero Crater is becoming warmer, which means that the helicopter’s propellers must turn faster in order to fly. Engineers wanted to check its performance at higher rpm settings. 

NASA’s JPL Team tweeted: ‘The #MarsHelicopter successfully performed an errand in its current field to test out higher rpm settings for lower atmospheric densities on Mars. 

“This test also allows the team to increase their rpm if necessary for future flights.” 

NASA has not released details about how far the helicopter flew, how long it flew, or when the flight occurred. 

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Photo of NASA 's Ingenuity helicopter taken during its tenth flight. NASA said it was the 'most complex' flight yet

NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter during its tenth flying. NASA claimed it was the most complex flight yet.

Diagram showing the different components of Ingenuity. The Ingenuity Mars Helicopter was built by JPL, which also manages the technology demonstration for NASA Headquarters

Diagram showing the various components of Ingenuity. JPL built the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter. They also manage the technology demonstrations for NASA Headquarters.


One flight: April 19, 2021: Vertical takeoffs up to 9.8ft high, stationary hovers and landings 

Second flight: April 22, 2021 with a vertical takeoff up to 16ft, hover, then shift westward for 14ft before returning and landing 

Third flight April 25, 2021: Vertical takeoff to 16ft, hover, shift northwards to 328ft at a speed of 2 m/s, before returning to land

Fourth flight: April 30, 2021 with a vertical takeoff up to 16ft, hover, shift southwards 873ft at 3.5m/s before returning to land 

Flight five May 7, 2021 with a vertical takeoff up to 33ft, hover, shift southwards 423ft at 3.5 m/s before landing at that new location

Sixth flight: May 22, 2021 with a vertical takeoff of 33ft, hover, shift southwest 492ft at 9mph, travel 49ft south, travel 164ft before returning to land 

Flight seven: June 8, 2021 with a vertical takeoff of 33ft, hover, shift 348ft at 9mph, land at Airfield D

Flight eight: June 21, 2021 with a vertical takeoff, hover, shift southwest 520ft, land at Airfield E 438ft away from Perseverance

Flight nine: July 5, 2021 with a record length of 2,050ft southwest over a prospective research location at 16ft per second.

Fly ten: July 24, 2021 with a record height of 40 feet (12 metres) over Raised Ridges to Airfield G. Flight duration 165.4 seconds.   

Flight eleven: August 5, 2021 by flying 1,250ft for 130 seconds in preparation for a series of reconnaissance missions for the Perseverance rover.

Flight Twelve August 16, 2021 by flying 1,476ft for 169 seconds, climbing 32.8ft in the air, over the ‘South Seitah’ region of Mars. 

Flight Thirteen September 5, 2021 by flying 690ft for 160.5 seconds, climbing 26ft over one particular ridgeline over the ‘South Seitah’ region of Mars. 

Flight Fourteen October 25, 2021 by flying a ‘short hop’ to test out higher rpm settings.

Although the original design of the helicopter was to fly five times on Mars, it has now completed 14 missions.

It currently serves as a scout in support of the Perseverance rover’s search for ancient microbial lives on the Red Planet.

Ingenuity had to abandon its attempt to fly a 14th flight last month before the blackout. Data indicated that there was a problem with the mechanisms that control the direction and position of rotors.

This was not an issue prior to the current test. However, engineers are concerned that the helicopter’s components could be weakening due to the extended mission and extreme Mars temperatures.   

From October 2, the Earth lost connection with Perseverance (and Curiosity) rovers and InSight lander. 

During solar conjunction — when Earth and Mars can’t ‘see’ each other — the sun expels hot, ionized gas from its hot outer atmosphere, or corona, and this gas can interfere with radio signals if engineers try to communicate with spacecraft on the Red Planet. 

Perseverance was stationed 575ft (175m) away from Ingenuity during the blackout. 

The rover recorded new sounds with its microphones, took weather measurements, and searched for dust devils using its cameras.

Perseverance is currently moving south from the Jezero Crater landing spot, while Ingenuity is looking for locations to help it map its way on the ground.

Ingenuity arrived on Mars attached to the belly of Perseverance, which touched down on Mars on February 18 after a nearly seven-month journey through space.  

Perseverance made its first test drive on Mars on March 4, and on April 4, NASA confirmed that Ingenuity had been dropped to the surface of Mars from Perseverance’s ‘belly’ in preparation for its historic flight.  

NASA also said on April 5 that Ingenuity had survived its first night on the Martian surface – a major milestone because surface temperatures can plunge as low as -130°F (-90°C).   

The 18-inch tall helicopter made its first flight on April 19, 2021. It was the first powered controlled flight on any other planet. 

Ingenuity carries a small amount fabric that was used to cover one of the wings of the Wright brothers’ aircraft, the Flyer, in recognition of this feat. It was used during the first powered, controlled flight of humans on Earth in 1903. 

Ingenuity took off, rose to approximately 10 feet (3 metres) above ground, hovered briefly in the air, and then made a turn. 

After that, the helicopter flew more experimental flights at increasing distances and higher altitudes, culminating in the tenth flight on the 24th of July. 

The five first flights in April and May were part a “technical demonstration” to prove that something could fly on Mars.

The flights that followed were part of an extended mission support role which helped Perseverance.  

The Jezero Crater (pictured) is an ancient river delta that seems a logical spot for somewhere that once harboured life

The Jezero Crater (pictured), is an ancient river Delta that seems like a good spot for a place that once had life