Ingenuity Helicopter Has Successful Mars Flight


As expected, Ingenuity, the diminutive helicopter the Perseverance rover flew to Mars, completed a successful test flight from the Jezero Crater at 12:31 a.m. EDT and achieved an altitude of about 10 feet before touching down successfully 40 seconds later. Data confirming the flight was received by NASA at 6:15 a.m.

“Ingenuity has performed its first flight, the first flight of a powered aircraft on another planet!” Ingenuity’s chief pilot Håvard Grip announced, confirming that telemetry at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, showed a nominal flight. If subsequent data confirms performance goals, future probes to Mars might routinely include helicopters to extend survey capability. Ingenuity is a one-of-kind aircraft weighing 4 pounds and with contra-rotating carbon-fiber blades. It was an $85 million add-on to the $2.7 billion total cost of the Perseverance program. The rover landed on the red plant on Feb. 18 after launching from Earth on July 20, 2020, from Florida’s Space Coast on an Atlas V booster.

NASA named Ingenuity’s Martian airfield used by Ingenuity the Wright Brothers Field after Orville and Wilbur Wright. The two brothers famously achieved the first controlled powered flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina on Dec. 17, 1903.

Although Ingenuity carries no survey instruments, its flights are intended to prove the concept of rotary flight in Mars’ thin atmosphere, which has a density altitude of about 100,000 feet. Additional flights are planned.


  1. I’m guessing the DA at takeoff would be 65,000-80,000 feet.

    The ‘air’ density is 1/100 but the temperature is much colder.

    The weight will be much less, but the mass will be the same so that will improve takeoff performance.

    It would be interesting to see what the rotor RPM’s needed to be to takeoff.

  2. Mind boggling engineering… Top job! And, would it not be the highest ‘density altitude’ for a rotorcraft/drone till now ? 😉

  3. A short time later a NASA engineer gets a call from the FAA and asked about the video they posted to youtube showing them operating a drone out of line of sight. LOL

    Looking forward to when all the pictures and lime lapse video is downloaded.

    • The engineer replied “mea culpa”, and said FAA was free to confiscate the aircraft. All they had to do was go get it.

  4. Geezus … $85M for a ~4 pound drone … what’s it made of … Unobtanium?
    What did the ‘ticket’ to Mars cost?
    I bet Elon coulda done it for a quarter of that?

    And … no sooner does it fly then ICAO gives it a call sign of … IGY-1. And, they give the Jezero crater an Identifier, too (didn’t catch it quick enough). And NASA has a logbook for it now … probably cost a million, give or take? Government … can’t keep their mits offa anything. Next thing ya know, they’ll have an approach plate for the place. 🙂

    I got up to watch it and noticed the flight team all sitting there with laptops. Cool. Good job. They said a piece of the Wright Flyer is aboard her … I suppose fabric? Maybe that’s why it cost so much. And, navigation is by photo vision pilotage … kinda like early cruise missiles with topocomp.

    What I want to see is a little green guy jump out from under a rock and grab it. Now THAT I’d pay BIG money for. NASA shoulda have included a blow up balloon green guy just to have some fun. Nobody would ever forget this day … just like December 1903

    • It probably cost so much to design and test the rotor blades, which couldn’t use Earthbound blades designed for a thicker atmosphere and lower operational RPM.

    • Don’t forget that the gravitational force on Mars is 62.5% less than earth and the average temp is -81 deg F

      Great pictorial data at: