The Ingenuity Mars Helicopter is a small aircraft carried over the Red Planet surface attached to the ship of the Perseverance rover. Ingenuity nasa missions are experimental in nature and are completely independent of the rover’s scientific missions.
|Main Job||A technology demonstration to test the first powered flight on Mars. The helicopter rode to Mars attached to the belly of the Perseverance rover.|
|Launch||July 30, 2020, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida|
|Landed||Feb. 18, 2021, Jezero Crater, Mars|
|Length of Mission||Technology demonstration complete; transitioned to new operations demo phase|
Ingenuity nasa was placed on the ground on April 4, 2021. On April 19, it became the first aircraft in history to make a power-controlled flight over another planet. Flying on Mars is difficult because it has a much lower gravity than Earth (one-third that of Earth) and an extremely thin atmosphere with a surface pressure of only 1% compared to our planet. This means that relatively few air molecules can interact with Ingenuity’s two 4-foot-wide (1.2-meter-wide) rotor blades.
The rotorcraft’s flight is autonomous, piloted by an onboard guidance, navigation and control system that runs algorithms developed by the JPL team. Ingenuity cannot fly with a joystick, and flight cannot be observed in real time from Earth, because orbiting satellites and NASA’s Deep Space Network must be used to send and receive data to and from the red planet over millions of miles.
To operate on Mars, you need a Perseverance rover that allows the rotorcraft to communicate with Earth.
After its fifth test flight (May 7, 2021), the Ingenuity experiment embarked on a new operational demonstration phase exploring how aerial reconnaissance and other capabilities could help future exploration of Mars and other worlds. Data from this flight will also help make decisions related to considering a small helicopter for its role as a fully standalone science craft carrying instrument payloads. In the distant future, Mars helicopters might help astronauts explore the red planet.
Images from the rotorcraft are also used to directly support the Perseverance rover’s exploration of the Jezero Crater. Science teams are looking for photos from an aerial perspective to help evaluate which geological features and locations are worth exploring, and rover planners are using them to map safe routes to get there.