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Ingenuity released from Perseverance

Ingenuity on the ground
Click for full image.

Perseverance engineers have now confirmed that the Ingenuity helicopter was successfully released below the rover earlier today, and the rover immediately moved away to expose the helicopter to sunlight so that its solar panels can charge its batteries.

The photo to the right, cropped to post here, was taken by one of Perseverance’s rear hazard avoidance cameras, shortly after the release and move. They will now begin about a week of check-outs to make sure Ingenuity is functioning properly, even as they drive Perseverance a distance away to a lookout point where it can safely observe the helicopter’s test flight on Mars, presently targeted for April 11th. If successful this will be the first powered flight ever achieved on another world.

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.


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  • David Eastman

    I still run into people who express the opinion that we don’t need to send people off of Earth, that the NASA probes are wonderful and do all the same science anyways. Ignoring the other reasons to have people, something like this should be example number one for the counter-argument. If there was a person there to do this by hand, that thing would have flown a dozen times by now.

  • David Eastman: I would not be surprised in the least if every single one of the people who tell you this are also wearing masks.

  • Alex Andrite

    The Little Ingen that could.

    This is a very cool image, the full image fish eye as well.

  • Basic helicopter flight equations:

    A more thorough treatment. Mostly theory, but useful equations start on page 25:

    My BOTE calculations indicate the aircraft should fly with some power reserve. But, we’ll find out soon enough.

  • Richard M

    I would not be surprised in the least if every single one of the people who tell you this are also wearing masks.

    I don’t doubt that there’s a big overlap. But then again, there’s been an anti-human spaceflight milieu in the science community going right back to James van Allen…

    I think we do get pretty good bang for our buck, most of the time, for what we spend on robotic space exploration — thanks to the concentrated and experienced ingenuity at centers like JPL, Ames, Goddard, et al. I also think that’s a darned good thing given how deeply dysfunctional most of NASA’s human spaceflight program has been since the 1970’s. A skilled astronaut on site *could* do in a day everything a Curiosity-class rover can do over months, but it’s a moot point when NASA’s parochial procurement and bureaucratic inefficiencies mean it will never have the kind of funding it would actually take to put that astronaut on the surface of Mars in the first place.

    All that said, Bob, I do grok and lament what you’re trying to say about the increasingly pathological aversion to risk that is overtaking American society at almost all levels. It sure doesn’t make what people like Elon Musk and Peter Beck are trying to do any easier.

  • Raymond Hietapakka

    How can this thing fly in an atmosphere which is 1% that of Earth’s? Huge props? 14,000 r.p.m.? Secret sauce?

  • Raymond Hietapakka: I don’t know all the engineering details, not being an engineer, but I can tell you that Mars’s gravity, about one third that of Earth’s, helps quite a lot.

  • Milt

    Robert —

    Whether or not you embrace some kind of NASA conspiracy about what kind of atmospheric conditions obtain on Mars, Ms. Erikson’s links do highlight a problem that you have often cited, to wit, how can there be so much evidence of what appear to be surface water phenomena with such a low atmospheric pressure?

    Quoting from the last of her links:

    “This thicker atmosphere would account for ‘wash features’ on the surface plus many of the images we find with blue-grey sky colours. The orange clear sky colours would be the image ‘enhanced’ pictures released by NASA, not the true colour pictures. At present many scientists are having trouble explaining the liquid water related phenomena ( because water would evaporate rapidly in the officially endorsed low pressure environment.”

    Likewise, there is the case of why — again per the logic of this post — the Martian sky is not black.

    But here is something else to consider. If NASA / JPL did not have a pretty good understanding of the physics of the Martian atmosphere, they would not have been able to accomplish so many successful soft landings on Mars, Perseverance nicely serving as people’s exhibit A in this case. Similarly, we would expect (per bkivey’s links) that Ingenuity will also perform as intended. But could one work backward, knowing the engineering parameters of Ingenuity, to derive an independent figure for the density of Mars’ atmosphere?

    Conspiracies aside, it seems to me that both of these things are legitimate “puzzles,” and as Robert likes to point out, Mars is a VERY
    strange place.

  • Mike Borgelt

    Couldn’t they wait until the next day, April 12th?
    It has certain traditional historical significance in the space business.

  • Richard M

    How can this thing fly in an atmosphere which is 1% that of Earth’s? Huge props? 14,000 r.p.m.? Secret sauce?

    Lower Martian gravity, very high rpm’s (2800), special blade design for low density air, very low mass (Ingenuity only weighs 4lbs!), and contra-rotating coaxial rotors.

    It worked in the vacuum chambers under Mars -like conditions, but we’ll see if it can do it for real on April 11.

  • concerned

    It probably will work for small drones like Ingenious, but I don’t see it scaling up very well to long range, large payload for Mars usage.

  • Mike Borgelt: I agree, it wouldn’t kill them (I assume) to wait to do the flight on a day with, as you say, “. . . historical significance in the space business”

    That is such a good idea, I emailed NASA at

    With this message:

    “Can the date of Ingenuity First Flight be moved to 12 April? It has been noted that the date has some significance in space exploration.


    Blair Ivey”

    Not holding my breath, but it would be cool. I’m surprised JPL missed the opportunity.

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