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Ingenuity flies!

Ingenuity takes off!
For full images go here and here.

The first autonomous flight of the helicopter Ingenuity on Mars successfully took place early this morning, according to JPL engineers.

NASA has pulled off the first powered flight on another world. Ingenuity, the robot rotorcraft that is part of the agency’s Perseverance mission, lifted off from the surface of Mars on 19 April, in a 40-second flight that is a landmark in interplanetary aviation. “We can now say that human beings have flown a rotorcraft on another planet,” says MiMi Aung, the project’s lead engineer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California.

As shown by the two images taken by Perseverance above, the first flight was very simple. The helicopter simply rose about 10 feet, hovered for about 30 seconds as it swiveled 90 degrees, and then carefully descended back down. I have also embedded the video that JPL scientists have created compiling by high resolution Perseverance images below the fold.

Four more flights will next be attempted in the coming weeks.

Four further flights, each lasting up to 90 seconds, are planned in the coming weeks. In these, Ingenuity is likely to rise up to 5 metres [16 feet] above the surface and travel up to 300 metres [1000 feet] from the take-off point. Each successive flight will push Ingenuity’s capabilities to see how well the drone fares in Mars’s thin atmosphere, which is just 1% as dense as Earth’s.

Genesis cover

On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

The ebook is available everywhere for $5.99 (before discount) at amazon, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit. If you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and the author gets a bigger cut much sooner.

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"Not simply about one mission, [Genesis] is also the history of America's quest for the moon... Zimmerman has done a masterful job of tying disparate events together into a solid account of one of America's greatest human triumphs."--San Antonio Express-News


  • Willi

    “For full images go here and here.” The second “here” isn’t.

  • Willi: Link fixed. Thank you.

  • Alex Andrite

    Off we go, … into the wild bl …… oh wait ! Can’t sing that one here …..
    hmmmm ???

  • Jeff

    Hi-Rez video of first flight

  • Jeff: Thank you. I have now embedded that video below the fold.

  • Lee Stevenson

    Absolutely stunning achievement!!! If someone had asked me 10 years ago… I would have bet my last krona it was impossible to fly a helicopter on Mars! 2500RPM!! And the little bugger hovered like a hoverfly! I am genuinely stunned, even tho I expected the designers knew what they were doing. Interesting it wobbled around a little, although never looked out of control.. I wonder if this was wind, ( from Mars, not the drone! ;-) or the controls system, or a combination of? Indeed, will the Martian wind have the same effect as a comparable wind given the pressure differential to earth? How does the gravity difference effect the above? I know this is “just” a proof of concept mission, but after this test flight alone I’m guessing there is data to keep many a student busy on their dissertation for a few years to come! Well done NASA, and well done the US! THIS is the stuff you do the best, this is the stuff that you lead and the rest of the world follows, and as I’ve said before, this is the stuff that makes me proud to be Human. On a less fawning note… Am I alone in seeing a NASA shift from the fallout of the “cheaper, faster, better” days to a much more adventurous attitude again? Missions to Europa, and Titan in the pipeline, sample return from Mars looking like it might actually happen, and I have a feeling we might even see boots on the moon again in my lifetime! Happy days to be a space geek! And it is the US that is driving all this forward. I am critical of the US often, and for many reasons, but I can have nothing but admiration for the achievements of your space program. In this arena, you guys ROCK!

  • Lee: One correction to your post: This achievement really wasn’t a NASA one, it was achieved by JPL and its engineers.

    I have resolved to only credit NASA when NASA and its engineers and scientists do something. In the case of Ingenuity, the design, concept, and execution all came out of JPL.

  • Lee Stevenson

    Sorry Bob, even after all these years of following Space stuff, I still don’t get the difference between JPL and NASA… I have always thought of them as two shoots from the same branch… Under the same funding umbrella and pointing the same direction. If you have the time, either a clarification or a point to a previous post would be appreciated!

  • mkent

    Lee: Bob is being a bit nit-picky here. While technically JPL is a Federally Funded Research and Development Center (FFRDC) like Los Alamos and Sandia National Labs, it’s owned by NASA and considered one of the ten NASA centers (along with Johnson, Kennedy, Marshall, Goddard, Langley, Lewis, Ames, Dryden, and Stennis).

    Their website is You won’t find Boeing, Lockheed, or any other contractor with an address like that. NASA considers JPL one of its own, as does just about everyone else in the country.

  • Richard M

    JPL is a bit different from the other major NASA centers (like Glenn, Ames, Goddard, etc.) in that it’s managed by Caltech, not NASA. It has more autonomy as a result.

    NASA has a role in project management with JPL missions that goes beyond just writing the checks, but I think it is also fair to give JPL a lion’s share of the credit for its missions. And of course, with no disrespect to the other centers, JPL is really in a class of its own. Every successful U.S. mission to the surface of Mars (which is to say, every succession mission of *anyone* to the surface of Mars, so far) has been a JPL mission.

  • Chris

    So Ingenuity looked to have a lot of lift – if the video time scale is real-time.
    So did NASA or others characterize the Martian atmosphere – ie how quickly does it thin to nothing … and Ingie has a flight ceiling? Will the atmosphere become denser ( in any appreciable way wrt flight) with the sublimating CO2?

    There are lots of things to ponder now

  • Jeff Wright

    Now, some years back-Mars was called ‘the Moon with bad weather’ and I also heard of solar system wide warming. Could it be that the atmosphere is a tad thicker?

  • Wright Brothers Field weather for 19 April 2021:

    METAR JZRO 190834Z 12017KT NCD M04/M- – Q007 NOSIG RMK AO1

    JPL apparently informally gave the flight test area the JZRO designator (Jezero Crater). They have also apparently named the area ‘Wright Brothers Field’. The ICOA hasn’t weighed in yet, but perhaps they will designate off-Earth airfields with an ‘X’ (eXtra-terrestrial), giving XWBF for the airport code.

  • Edward

    Lee Stevenson wrote: : “Absolutely stunning achievement!!!

    I absolutely agree!

  • Jeff

    bkivey – “The ICOA hasn’t weighed in yet”

    From the press release yesterday:

    Ingenuity’s chief pilot, Håvard Grip, announced that the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) – the United Nations’ civil aviation agency – presented NASA and the Federal Aviation Administration with official ICAO designator IGY, call-sign INGENUITY.

    These details will be included officially in the next edition of ICAO’s publication Designators for Aircraft Operating Agencies, Aeronautical Authorities and Services. The location of the flight has also been given the ceremonial location designation JZRO for Jezero Crater.

  • Jeff Wright

    Now I thought I saw a price tag of 4O million. This makes it the SLS of drones if true. Too late to kill now except by accident.

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