Skip to main content

NASA’s Mars helicopter has just set a new flight record

NASA’s plucky Ingenuity helicopter set a new flight altitude record on Mars on Saturday.

In a mission lasting 52 seconds, the 4-pound, 19-inch-tall machine reached a height of 46 feet over the martian surface while traveling a distance of 49 feet.

An all-time high for the #MarsHelicopter!
Ingenuity completed Flight 35 over the weekend and set a new max altitude record, hitting 46 ft (14 meters) above the Martian surface. See more stats in the flight log:

— NASA JPL (@NASAJPL) December 6, 2022

While most of Ingenuity’s 35 flights on the red planet have reached a peak altitude of 33 feet, the weekend excursion by the drone-like device topped the existing record of 39 feet achieved on three separate flights last year.

Ingenuity reached Mars with NASA’s Perseverance rover in a spectacular arrival captured in high-definition video in February 2021.

Two months later, following a period of ground-based tests, Ingenuity became the first aircraft to achieve powered, controlled flight on another planet with a 39-second hover 10 feet off the ground. Its longest flight to date covered a distance of 2,325 feet in a mission in April 2022.

Although the helicopter was sent to Mars to merely test the viability of using such a machine for future planetary missions, Ingenuity performed so well that NASA started using it to assist the ground-based Perseverance rover as it searches for evidence of ancient life on the planet.

The aircraft helps by using its downward-facing camera to search for areas of interest for Perseverance to explore. The aerial vantage point also allows the team to use the imagery to find the safest and most efficient routes for Perseverance to take as it makes its way across the rocky surface to different exploration sites.

Ingenuity’s record-breaking flight came 11 days after the flying machine set another record, for the shortest flight in Mars aviation history when it hovered 16 feet off the ground for a mere 18 seconds. The mission was an important one, however, as it gave the team a chance to test two new capabilities, specifically, hazard avoidance for landings and digital elevation maps to aid navigation.

Editors' Recommendations

Trevor Mogg
Contributing Editor
Not so many moons ago, Trevor moved from one tea-loving island nation that drives on the left (Britain) to another (Japan)…
NASA’s Mars copter flew high, fast, far, and long. Here are the key stats
NASA's Ingenuity helicopter.

An artist's impression of the Ingenuity helicopter in flight over Mars. NASA/JPL-Caltech / NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Mars helicopter, Ingenuity, is grounded for good. But it achieved a lot during its almost three-year adventure on the red planet.

Read more
NASA video celebrates Mars helicopter following its final flight
NASA’s Ingenuity Mars helicopter is seen here in a close-up taken by Mastcam-Z, a pair of zoomable cameras aboard the Perseverance rover. This image was taken on April 5, the 45th Martian day, or sol, of the mission.

Legacy of NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter

NASA’s record-setting Mars helicopter, Ingenuity, has taken its final flight, the space agency confirmed on Thursday.

Read more
NASA says goodbye to Mars helicopter Ingenuity after an incredible 72 flights
NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter unlocked its rotor blades, allowing them to spin freely, on April 7, 2021, the 47th Martian day, or sol, of the mission.

It's a sad day for space fans, as the plucky little helicopter Ingenuity has finally come to the end of its mission on Mars. The helicopter will not be making anymore flights due to damage to one of its rotors that occurred during a recent landing, NASA said in an announcement on Thursday, January 25.

The mission was originally planned to make just five flights and to last 30 days, but has been successful beyond what anyone had imagined. The helicopter has made a total of 72 flights over the course of its three-year mission, which began when it was set down on the surface of Mars by the Perseverance rover. The rover arrived on Mars with the helicopter tucked up underneath its belly in February 2021, and Ingenuity sat on the surface for the first time in April 2021. It then made history by becoming the first rotorcraft to fly on another planet with its maiden flight.

Read more