Photo by: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA/JPL-Caltech

Meet Ingenuity: NASA’s First Mars Helicopter

Perseverance with Ingenuity strapped to its belly launched on July 30, 2020, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The Mars Rover and Mars Helicopter safely landed on the dusty surface at 3:55P ET on February 18, 2021, after traveling nearly 292.5 million miles.

February 25, 2021

Ingenuity contacted Earth from the Jezero crater on February 19, 2021. It sent a message in the form of a downlink telling JPL that it arrived safely with Perseverance and is operating correctly. The first to do on Ingenuity’s list is to continually charge its batteries to keep warm on the cold surface and prepare for its later planned flight this spring. The helicopter, still strapped to Perseverance, is receiving power from the rover. When Ingenuity stands on its own 30 to 60 days from now, it will power up using energy gathered from its own solar panel.

JPL has mentioned that “after Perseverance deploys Ingenuity to the surface the helicopter will then have a 30-Martian-day (31-Earth-day) experimental flight test window. If Ingenuity survives its first bone-chilling Martian nights – where temperatures dip as low as minus 130 degrees Fahrenheit – the team will proceed with the first flight of an aircraft on another world.” Ingenuity will attempt further flights on Mars if the first one is a success.

NASA’s Perseverance Rover Has Landed on Mars

After a harrowing landing and traveling nearly 292.5 million miles, NASA's Perseverance with Ingenuity touched down on Mars at 3:55P ET today, February 18, 2021. Congratulations to the teams at NASA and JPL. We cannot wait to see what research comes from this incredible mission.

For Ingenuity’s first flight, it will need to lift itself off the surface, hover in the Martian air for 20 to 30 seconds, and then land. Once deemed a success, the helicopter will try further experimental flights in traveling a greater distance with a higher altitude. Ingenuity has the ability to fly up to 90 seconds, a distance of about 980 feet, and about 10 to 15 feet from the ground.

Illustration depicts Mars Helicopter Ingenuity during a test flight on Mars. Ingenuity was taken to the Red Planet strapped to the belly of the Perseverance rover (seen in the background).

Photo by: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA/JPL-Caltech

Illustration depicts Mars Helicopter Ingenuity during a test flight on Mars. Ingenuity was taken to the Red Planet strapped to the belly of the Perseverance rover (seen in the background).

As the first aircraft to attempt flight on Mars, a small and four-pound Ingenuity faces a challenge. Mars’ atmosphere is thin, which makes it difficult to lift off from the dusty surface and there are communication delays between the two planets. In preparation for Ingenuity’s flight, commands from Earth will need to be sent well in advance. The helicopter will be flying on its own. It’s up to Ingenuity to decide if it’s ready for takeoff on Mars.

Experience more Mars on discovery+. Download and subscribe to stream NASA Mars Landing: Inside the Mission and When We Left Earth.

Stream What You Love

Your favorite shows, personalities, and exclusive originals, all in one place.

Next Up

How Exoplanets Became the Next Big Thing in Astronomy

To date, we know of over 5,000 planets outside the solar system. And astronomers suspect that there may be *checks notes* around a trillion more in our galaxy alone. The search for exoplanets is one of the hottest topics in astronomy, with expensive telescopes and giant collaborations all searching for the holy grail of the 21st century: an Earth 2.0, a habitable world like our own.

NASA Has Announced Plans for the Next Decade of Space Missions, And It’s Awesome

Personally speaking, I feel like we’ve been focusing on Mars a little bit too much recently. Sure, the Red Planet is all sorts of awesome – so awesome it may have once been a home for life – but with more than half a dozen orbiters, landers, and rovers, it’s certainly got its due.

What We’ve Already Learned From James Webb? (Hint: it’s a lot)

That was worth the wait. Just a quick handful of months since its historic launch on Christmas Day, the James Webb Space Telescope has flown to its observing position, unfolded its delicate instruments and ultra-sized mirror, and run through a suite of checks and alignments and calibrations. The team at NASA behind the telescopes released their first batch of images from the science runs, and besides being gorgeous, they're powerful.

Why Astronomers Care About Super-Old Galaxies?

A long time ago, our universe was dark.It was just 380,000 years after the big bang. Up until that age, our entire observable cosmos was less than a millionth of its present size. All the material in the universe was compressed into that tiny volume, forcing it to heat up and become a plasma. But as the universe expanded and cooled, eventually the plasma changed into a neutral gas as the first atoms formed.

What Comes After the Moon and Mars?

Space hotels may be in our future.

Watch Out! Amateur Astronomer Watches as Jupiter Gets Whacked

Jupiter is the OG best friend in the solar system. It finds all the tiny little comets and asteroids heading for the vulnerable inner planets and takes one for the team, chewing up the dangerous rocks in its thick atmosphere. It happened again just recently, and this time an amateur astronomer caught it in the act.

NASA Has a New Supersonic Jet and It’s Super-Quiet

There’s more to NASA than space. The agency’s full acronym stands for National Aeronautics and Space Administration. I’ve covered plenty of interesting stories in the space sector, so it’s time to the aeronautics side some love too.

Six Planets are Retrograde, What Does that Mean for You?

Spoiler alert: It's an optical illusion.

New Photos of Martian Space Wreckage

NASA's Ingenuity helicopter captured photos of an eerie debris field on Mars.

Jupiter Makes Its Closest Approach to Earth in Nearly 60 Years

The last time Jupiter appeared this large and bright in the sky was in October 1963.

Related To: