NASA extends Mars mission of Ingenuity helicopter

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Washington, May 1 (BNA): The tiny helicopter Ingenuity is to remain in operation on Mars longer than expected, as its original 30-day mission has been extended by another 30 days, US space agency NASA said on Friday, the Deutsche Presse Agentur (DPA) reported.

"After that 30 day period, we will assess where we are," said Lori Glaze, director of NASA's planetary science division. "There is a potential to go beyond," she added.

Last week Ingenuity took flight for the first time, marking the first time ever a human-built aircraft has flown on another planet.

The small helicopter, which weighs around 1.8 kilograms and is powered by four lithium batteries, then took of two more times, flying faster and farther than before.

A fourth flight attempt on Thursday initially failed, but was meant to be repeated on Friday. Other flights are scheduled in the coming weeks.

There are extreme conditions on Mars, with up to minus 90 degrees Celsius at night, which can be an issue for batteries.

Due to the planet's thin atmosphere, Ingenuity's rotors had to accelerate to 2,537 rotations per minute, much more than needed for helicopters on Earth.

Ingenuity travelled to Mars aboard the Perseverance rover, which weighs around 1,000 kilograms and is the size of a small car.

The rover arrived on the Red Planet in February, after travelling 472 million kilometres over 203 days of flight.

It landed in a dried lake spanning 45 kilometres called the Jezero Crater, which it is to inspect in the coming two years.

The construction and development of the rover took eight years and cost around 2.5 billion dollars.

Perseverance is meant to search for traces of microbial life on Mars and examine the climate and geology of the planet.