CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — NASA’s small Mars helicopter is becoming a reprieve.

Rather than wrapping up flight evaluations at the start of May, NASA is devoting its Ingenuity helicopter at an additional month to handle demanding new terrain and function as a scout for the company rover, Perseverance.

Officials declared the flight expansion Friday, after three short flights under a couple of weeks to its 85 million tech presentation.

Ingenuity created its fourth trip Friday day, traveling 872 ft (266 meter) at a height of 16 feet (5 meters) for 2 minutes — substantially farther and more than previously. An effort Thursday had failed due to a known application mistake.

On its fifth flight in a week or so, the chopper will proceed to a different airfield on Mars, allowing the rover to eventually begin focusing on its rock-sampling mission. The rover is looking for indications of early life in Jezero Crater, home to some lush lakebed and river delta countless years back.

The helicopter group at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory at Pasadena, California, hopes to chalk up a seven and sixth flight in May. The previous limit was five. If all goes well, the helicopter assignment could go much longer.

“Ingenuity enjoys Mars,” job manager MiMi Aung told reporters. “It takes away and that I feel that the freedom it feels”

Today Perseverance will take priority, scoping from the stones around the Feb. 18 landing website.

The rover will continue to relay pictures and data in the helicopter, but quit taking its chopper shots. Both spacecraft has to be inside a half-mile (1 kilometer) of one another, for communicating relay.


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