Mars Copter Completes 12th Sortie, Far Exceeding Expectations


As logbook entries go, a little less than 19 minutes’ total time and 1.4 miles might not sound like much. But it’s a lot when you consider it’s time logged on another planet.

NASA’s Ingenuity Mars helicopter added 169 seconds to that total time and covered an additional 1,500 feet on its 12th flight Monday (Aug. 16). That more than doubles initial expectations for the craft, which NASA hoped could fly five times and simply prove that atmospheric flight is possible on the red planet.

The latest sortie—characterized by NASA as “ambitious”—was planned to reconnoiter the South Seitah region of Mars in support of the mother ship Perseverance. The terrain in the region makes for perilous flying, not to mention the hazards of maneuvering the Perseverance rover on the surface. The risk is counterbalanced by the reward of collecting “intriguing rocks that Perseverance’s science team would love to study up close,” according to NASA.

Flight planners wrote, “When we choose to accept the risks associated with such a flight, it is because of the correspondingly high rewards. Knowing that we have the opportunity to help the Perseverance team with science planning by providing unique aerial footage is all the motivation needed.”

Mark Phelps
Mark Phelps is a senior editor at AVweb. He is an instrument rated private pilot and former owner of a Grumman American AA1B and a V-tail Bonanza.

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  1. It is truly amazing. I have great admiration for the folks smart enough to have made all this happen.

  2. Those NASA engineers had better make sure they have their part 107 certificates, or the FAA will surely be calling…

    The Perseverance/Ingenuity team are all doing incredible work! I can’t wait to see how far past their designed life these two reach…

  3. The success of the little drone opens up a whole new way of future explorations of Mars and possibly other moons/planets. It can map out interesting sites for ground vehicles to visit, plus help them to avoid hazardous areas better seen from above. This could speed up the rover’s pace too. Maybe in the future we can launch a few GPS satellites into orbit around Mars so they can allow better aerial navigation. (Yeah, just kidding)