June 15, 2024

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NASA’s innovative Mars helicopter completes 50th flight

Perseverance recently completed exploration of “Foel Drygarn,” a science target that may contain hydrated silica (which is of strong astrobiological significance). It is currently heading to “Mount Julian”, which will provide a panoramic view of the nearby Belva Crater.

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Built with many off-the-shelf components, such as smartphone processors and cameras, Ingenuity is now 23 months on Earth and 45 flights beyond its expected life. The helicopter flew for over 89 minutes and over 7.1 miles (11.6 kilometers).

“When we first flew, we thought we’d be incredibly lucky if we did five flights,” said Teddy Zanetos, chief creative officer at JPL. “We have exceeded expected cumulative flight time since the conclusion of our technology offering by 1,250% and projected distance by 2,214%.”

However, exceeding such expectations comes at a cost. As some helicopter components show signs of wear and terrain becomes more difficult, the Ingenuity team understands that every great mission must eventually come to an end. “We’ve come a long way, and we want to go further,” Zanetos said. “But we know from the start that our time on Mars has been limited, and every operational day is a blessing. Whether the Ingenuity mission ends tomorrow, next week, or months from now is something no one can predict right now. What I can predict is that When that happens, we’ll have a one-on-one party.”

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The Ingenuity Mars helicopter was built by JPL, which also manages the project for NASA Headquarters. It is supported by NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley and NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia provided critical flight performance analysis and technical assistance during Ingenuity’s development. AeroVironment Inc. Qualcomm and SolAero also help design and major vehicle components. Lockheed Space designed and manufactured Mars Helicopter Delivery System.

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At NASA Headquarters, Dave Lavery is the executive director of the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter Program.