Taking Flight on Another World
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.
With its tech demo complete, Ingenuity transitions to a new operations demonstration phase to explore how future rovers and aerial explorers can work together.
5 Things to Know
First test of powered flight on another planet.
Built to be light and strong enough to stow away under the rover while on the way to Mars, and survive the harsh Martian environment after arriving on the surface. The helicopter weighs less than 4 pounds (1.8 kilograms).
Powerful enough to lift off in the thin Mars atmosphere. The atmosphere of Mars is very thin: less than 1% the density of Earth's.
The helicopter was designed to fly for up to 90 seconds, to distances of almost 980 feet (300 meters) at a time and about 10 to 15 feet from the ground. That's no small feat compared to the first 12-second flight of the Wright Brothers' airplane.
The helicopter flies on its own, without human control. It must take off, fly, and land, with minimal commands from Earth sent in advance.