Ingenuity, the small, solar-power helicopter designed to scout and survey the surface of Mars, was originally intended to complete a maximum of five short flights over 30 Martian days. When its first successful flight was completed on April 19th, 2021, it had already made history as the first power-controlled aircraft flown on a planet other than Earth. Now, the Ingenuity has surpassed the goals of its original mission and reached new milestones in Mars exploration.
In late July, Ingenuity marked its tenth flight by soaring over the “Raised Ridges”, a rocky area of the Jezero Crater. The flight was also notable for being the highest and for hitting the one-mile mark. The aptly named Flight 10 was the most challenging of Ingenuity’s extended career. The helicopter had to hit ten different waypoints across Raised Ridges and reached a new maximum altitude of 40 feet in the process.
Paving The Way For Perseverance
The images collected during the flight will help scientists in their evaluation of a potential mission for the Perseverance rover. Ingenuity has been mainly used for such reconnaissance purposes, providing better insight for planning ground exploration missions.
Although Ingenuity primarily serves as an aerial scout for Perseverance, it has continued to assert its own unique role in Mars exploration. In addition to its unexpected longevity, the craft has officially become the first interplanetary spacecraft to have its sound recorded by another interplanetary spacecraft, and the first to land at a site other than the place of its launch.
A Bird’s Eye View Of New Frontiers
With a considerable legacy already created in a matter of months, Ingenuity could be the foundation for other powered spacecraft that explore further reaches of Mars. Although no future flights have been publicized at this time, NASA has already begun proposing possible successors that expand upon Ingenuity’s design. The future of space exploration may be led by compact, lightweight helicopters that serve as our eyes across new frontiers.
What are your thoughts on the continued utilization and success of NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter? Comment and tell us what you think of its many milestones.
The Mars Helicopter, Ingenuity, is a technology demonstration to test powered, controlled flight on another world for the first time. It hitched a ride to Mars on the Perseverance rover. Once the rover reached a suitable “airfield” location, it released Ingenuity to the surface so it could perform a series of test flights over a 30-Martian-day experimental window.
The helicopter completed its technology demonstration after three successful flights. For the first flight on April 19, 2021, Ingenuity took off, climbed to about 10 feet (3 meters) above the ground, hovered in the air briefly, completed a turn, and then landed. It was a major milestone: the very first powered, controlled flight in the extremely thin atmosphere of Mars, and, in fact, the first such flight in any world beyond Earth. After that, the helicopter successfully performed additional experimental flights of incrementally farther distance and greater altitude.
ABOUT Perseverance Rover
The Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover will search for signs of ancient microbial life, which will advance NASA’s quest to explore the past habitability of Mars. The rover has a drill to collect core samples of Martian rock and soil, then store them in sealed tubes for pickup by a future mission that would ferry them back to Earth for detailed analysis. Perseverance will also test technologies to help pave the way for future human exploration of Mars.
There are several ways that the mission helps pave the way for future human expeditions to Mars and demonstrates technologies that may be used in those endeavors. These include testing a method for producing oxygen from the Martian atmosphere, identifying other resources (such as subsurface water), improving landing techniques, and characterizing weather, dust, and other potential environmental conditions that could affect future astronauts living and working on Mars.
At its 20 centers and facilities across the country – and the only National Laboratory in space – NASA studies Earth, including its climate, our Sun, and our solar system and beyond. We conduct research, testing, and development to advance aeronautics, including electric propulsion and supersonic flight. We develop and fund space technologies that will enable future exploration and benefit life on Earth.
NASA also leads a Moon to Mars exploration approach, which includes working with U.S. industry, international partners, and academia to develop new technology, and send science research and soon humans to explore the Moon on Artemis missions that will help prepare for human exploration of the Red Planet. In addition to those major missions, the agency shares what it learns so that its information can make life better for people worldwide. For example, companies use NASA discoveries and technologies to create new products for the public. To ensure future success for the agency and the nation, NASA also supports education efforts in STEM with an emphasis on increasing diversity in our future workforce.