Science and Exploration

The Little (Mars) Helicopter That Could

By Keith Cowing
Press Release
July 23, 2021
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The Little (Mars) Helicopter That Could

Ingenuity, the helicopter that arrived on the Red Planet on the Mars Perseverance rover, has made nine flights on Mars. Ingenuity’s historic achievement is the first powered flight on a terrestrial body other than Earth.
According to Håvard F. Grip, Ingenuity Chief Pilot, and Ken Williford, Perseverance Deputy Project Scientist, Flight 9, which occurred in July 2021, was unlike the flights that came before it. It broke our records for flight duration and cruise speed, and it nearly quadrupled the distance flown between two airfields. But what really set the flight apart was the terrain that Ingenuity had to negotiate during its 2 minutes and 46 seconds in the air – an area called “Séítah” that would be difficult to traverse with a ground vehicle like the Perseverance rover. This flight was also explicitly designed to have science value by providing the first close view of major science targets that the rover will not reach for quite some time.

But the Mars Perseverance team didn’t do it alone. A team of helicopter experts from our Ames Research Center in California assisted the Ingenuity team in making sure the technology demonstrator had the best chance for success in flying in the super thin atmosphere of the Red Planet. Learn more.

This image was captured by Mars Perseverance rover using its Left Mastcam-Z Camera, composed of a pair of cameras located high on the rover’s mast, on Jun. 15, 2021 (Sol 114).

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU larger image

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