NASA's experimental Mars helicopter, Ingenuity has now flown eight times on the Red Planet, delighting scientists with its progress on Mars. The little drone copter made its most recent Mars sortie on Monday (June 21), remaining aloft for 77seconds, flying for 160 meters, before safely landing 440 feet (133.5 m) away from Perseverance rover. The last flight came a couple of weeks after Ingenuity's last flight on June 8, and marks the second flawless flight for the helicopter after a rather difficult sixth flight in which the copter experienced a glitch. 

Ingenuity looks down to its own shadow on 6th flight (click for larger image)

Although Ingenuity was originally designed to fly only five times, the fact it overcame that glitch, coupled with the successful flights, has encouraged the agency to extend its mission and experiment with more ambitious flights. Whereas the helicopter's early flights began and ended in the same place (usually), Ingenuity is now flying from one new airfield to another, but always landing within sight of Percy. A ninth flight will be undertaken shortly, but it looks like Ingenuity could be making sorties for month's to come, keeping pace with Perseverance's own travels on Mars, scouting out regions of interest for the rover to visit. 

Perseverance is now conducting active science in earnest. The robot's first few months on the Red Planet were devoted primarily to performing health and instrument checkouts, as well as documenting the pioneering flights of NASA's Ingenuity helicopter. Over the coming months, Percy will start exploring a 1.5-square-mile [4-square-kilometer] patch of crater floor, with a view to collecting samples and caching them for a future return to Earth mission. The route for the rover is now planned, complete with optional turnoffs for areas of interest, or potential obstructions. The route takes Percy south first to the Séítah unit to get samples of the surface, then north and west to the river delta to sample sediments deposited by running water long ago

"We're on a route to somewhere" Percy's route mapped out (yellow hash marks). 
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona. (click for larger image)

Looking toward Santa Cruz hill-1.5 miles (2.5km) away from the rover.
Jezero crater rim lies far right distance. (click for larger image)

Meanwhile...the Chinese Zhurong rover is also on the move and has travelled 236 meters on the surface of the Red Planet since it successfully landed in Utopia Planitia on May 14. Newly released footage shows the successful parachute deployment of the rover from orbit to the planet’s surface. What makes the Zhurong Rover notably different from NASA’s Perseverance is its ability to capture unique angles thanks to a deployable, wireless camera. This camera was used earlier in June to allow the rover to take a unique selfie (see below) that did not require the use of a robotic arm. The camera can also take HR videos. Clever stuff! Smile!

The Chinese rover Zhurong and lander selfie from wireless camera (click for larger image)

The next mission update will be in September. 


The space to watch is   


All images - NASA/Caltech/JPL