Skip to main content

Mars helicopter Ingenuity reaches remarkable milestone in its mission

The little Mars helicopter Ingenuity has reached an impressive milestone, hitting a total of 30 minutes spent in the air above the red planet.

Ingenuity hit this milestone during its 17th flight. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) reports that over its mission so far the helicopter has traveled a total distance of 2.2 miles (3,592 meters), “flying as high as 40 feet (12 meters) and as fast as 10 mph (5 meters per second).”

Related Videos
NASA’s Ingenuity Mars helicopter is seen in a close-up taken by Mastcam-Z.
NASA’s Ingenuity Mars helicopter is seen in a close-up taken by Mastcam-Z, a pair of zoomable cameras aboard the Perseverance rover. This image was taken on April 5, 2021, the 45th Martian day, or sol, of the mission. NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU

The helicopter, which is classified as a technology demonstration — i.e. a test to see if flying a helicopter on Mars was even possible — and was originally only intended for five fights. But it has exceeded all expectations, overcoming challenges including changing seasons on Mars, a solar conjunction, and a communications issue with its rover buddy Perseverance.

“Few thought we would make it to flight one, fewer still to five. And no one thought we would make it this far,” said Ingenuity Team Lead Teddy Tzanetos of JPL in a statement. “On the way to accumulating over a half-hour aloft, Ingenuity has survived eight months of bitter cold, and operated out of nine unique Martian airfields. The aircraft’s continued operations speaks to the robustness the design and the diligence and passion of our small operations team.”

One of the challenges of flying on Mars is keeping aloft in the very thin atmosphere, which is just 1% the density of the atmosphere on Earth. And to make matters even harder, the changing Martian seasons mean that the atmospheric density has dropped even lower than it was when Ingenuity and Perseverance landed. To handle this change, Ingenuity has had to spin its rotor blades at even higher speeds to generate enough lift to keep it in the air.

Since the announcement of it hitting the 30 minutes in the air mark, Ingenuity has performed yet another flight. The official NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory Twitter account confirmed that Ingenuity’s 18th flight was a success, with the helicopter adding a further 124.3 seconds to its total flight time and traveling 754 feet (230 meters).

The #MarsHelicopter keeps going, going, going! Ingenuity successfully completed its 18th flight, adding 124.3 seconds to its overall time aloft on the Red Planet. It flew 754 feet (230 meters) at a speed of 5.6 mph (2.5 m/sec) & took images along the way.

— NASA JPL (@NASAJPL) December 17, 2021

Editors' Recommendations

Astronomers share early images from James Webb’s galaxy survey
Images of four example galaxies selected from the first epoch of COSMOS-Web NIRCam observations, highlighting the range of structures that can be seen. In the upper left is a barred spiral galaxy; in the upper right is an example of a gravitational lens, where the mass of the central galaxy is causing the light from a distant galaxy to be stretched into arcs; on the lower left is nearby galaxy displaying shells of material, suggesting it merged with another galaxy in its past; on the lower right is a barred spiral galaxy with several clumps of active star formation.

One of the major aims of the James Webb Space Telescope is to observe some of the earliest galaxies in the universe, and to do that it needs to be able to see extremely distant objects. But looking at a particular very old galaxy in detail is only half of the problem. To truly understand the earliest stages of the universe, astronomers also need to see how these very old galaxies are distributed so they can understand the large-scale structure of the universe.

That's the aim of the COSMOS-Web program, which is using James Webb to survey a wide area of the sky and look for these rare, ancient galaxies. It aims to study up to 1 million galaxies during over 255 hours of observing time, using both Webb's near-infrared camera (NIRCam) and its mid-infrared instrument (MIRI) camera. While there is still plenty of observing left to do, the researchers in the COSMOS-Web program recently shared some of their first results.

Read more
See the Ingenuity helicopter’s stunning image of a Martian sunset
NASA's Ingenuity Mars Helicopter acquired this image using its high-resolution color camera. This camera is mounted in the helicopter's fuselage and pointed approximately 22 degrees below the horizon. This image was acquired on Feb. 22, 2023 (Sol 714 of the Perseverance rover mission).

The tiny helicopter Ingenuity is continuing to explore Mars, gearing up for its 47th flight. That's a pretty stunning achievement, considering it was originally designed to perform just five flights and has had to deal with changing seasonal conditions including colder temperatures and dropping atmospheric pressure.

Despite the inhospitable environment, the helicopter continues to operate and recently made its longest flight in almost a year. And now, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory has shared an image taken by Ingenuity during its 45th flight which shows an otherworldly sunset, as the sun slinks over the Martian horizon.

Read more
How to watch the Crew-5 mission splash down tonight
The SpaceX Crew-5 members are seated inside the Dragon Endurance crew ship atop the Falcon 9 rocket before launching to the International Space Station from the Kennedy Space Center's Launch Pad 39A in Florida. From left are, Mission Specialist Anna Kikina from Roscosmos; Pilot Josh Cassada and Commander Nicole Mann, both NASA astronauts; and Mission Specialist Koichi Wakata from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).

Today a crew of four astronauts left the International Space Station (ISS) and are traveling back to Earth, due to splashdown into the ocean later tonight. The Crew-5 astronauts spent nearly six months living in space and are now due back on solid ground.

NASA Live: Official Stream of NASA TV

Read more