Mars Helicopter Completes 50th Flight


Nearly two years after beginning its mission, NASA’s Mars helicopter, Ingenuity, successfully completed its 50th flight with a 145.7-second hop on April 13. The rotorcraft flew for the first time on April 19, 2021, marking the first powered, controlled flight of an aircraft on another planet. Originally expected to survive for just five flights, Ingenuity has logged approximately 89.2 minutes in the air and flown for over 11,546 meters (7.1 miles) to date.

“We have exceeded our expected cumulative flight time since our technology demonstration wrapped by 1,250% and expected distance flown by 2,214%,” said Teddy Tzanetos, Ingenuity team lead at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). “We have come so far, and we want to go farther. But we have known since the very beginning our time at Mars was limited, and every operational day is a blessing.”

JPL says it plans to fly Ingenuity more frequently going forward in order to keep up with the Perseverance rover., which serves as a communications relay for the rotorcraft. Weighing in at 1.8 kilograms, Ingenuity was launched with the rover in July 2020 with the goal of testing powered, controlled flight on Mars. The helicopter’s mission was extended last March to include supporting the Perseverance’s exploration of the Jezero Crater.

Video: JPL
Kate O'Connor
Kate O’Connor works as AVweb's Editor-in-Chief. She is a private pilot, certificated aircraft dispatcher, and graduate of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

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  1. The Ingenuity program one of the few examples NASA doing what NASA does best. On the other hand: SLS . . . not so much.

  2. It is absolutely fantastic. Mars is a long, long way off folks. To have communications with the little chopper and it flying in the thin atmosphere, safely controlled for 50 flights so far, and sending back photos as it goes, unbelievable. And we are doing it. I saw a statement the other day. “There are countries that use the metric system, and then ones that have landed on the moon”. We can now add, “and fly helicopters on Mars”.

    • As one o the engineers that worked at the MIT Instrumentation Lab (Now called Draper Labs) on the Apollo guidance system (I ran the lunar lander simulator), I can assure you that we got to the moon using the metric or SI system. The readouts may have been English units but if the calculations had used English units we might not got there either.

  3. I have seen the movie but i not know any of the people as this occurred before my time working on the space program. I did know Margaret Hamilton at MIT. She was director of the Software Engineering Division of the MIT Instrumentation Laboratory, which developed on-board flight software for NASA’s Apollo program.

  4. Did Tesla already have a charging station waiting there? If the helicopter can’t make it back to earth – how will people make it back? What will human visitors do for oxygen when they get there?