Today's Editorial

Today's Editorial - 19 April 2023

Ingenuity breaks world records again

Source: By The Indian Express

NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter has been flying on the red planet’s surface for over two years now, and it has covered a distance of over 11 kilometres in that time. While 11 kilometres in two years may not seem like much in Earth terms, Ingenuity is actually breaking world records on Mars.

Ingenuity’s 49th flight, which happened on 2 April 2023, broke two different records–that for the highest altitude and the highest speed–achieved by any self-propelled aircraft outside of Earth. During its 49th flight, the little rotorcraft flew up to a height of 16 metres and reached a top speed of 23.4 kilometres per hour. The 49th flight lasted for duration of 142.7 seconds, during which time; Ingenuity covered a distance of 282 metres.

The rotorcraft set its previous flight height record on the red planet on 3 December 2022, when it flew about 14 metres in the air. Its previous flight speed record of 19.8 kilometres per hour was achieved on three different occasions–10 December, 11 June, and 8 April.

Its longest flight so far was its record-breaking 25th flight on 8 April 2022, when it covered a distance of a whopping 704 metres in what is still its longest flight and was its fastest flight until flight 49.

What is Ingenuity?

Ingenuity is a small solar-powered helicopter that landed on the Martian surface on 18 February 2021, along with the Perseverance Rover. On 19 April, the same year, it created history by completing the first powered extraterrestrial flight in human history. During that flight, it hovered and landed and the same spot for a flight that lasted 39.1 seconds, creating history.

Why are Ingenuity’s records so impressive?

While these distances may seem small for us here living on Earth, do remember that Mars is more than 225 million kilometres away right now. The distance between the two planets means that it takes between 5 to 20 minutes for a signal to travel from one to another.

Adding to this signal delay, Ingenuity also has to survive the harsh conditions on Mars. The low atmospheric density on the planet means that Ingenuity must work much harder than helicopters here on Earth in order to be able to fly. Also, it has had to survive “continent-sized” dust storms in the past and other Martian hazards in the past.

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