Ingenuity helicopter makes historic flight on Mars

by | Apr 20, 2021 | exploration, History, NASA, Science, Seradata News, Technology

Ingenuity – part of NASA’s Mars 2020 mission – made the first powered, controlled flight on another planet at 0730 GMT on 19 April. The 2 kg solar-powered drone helicopter, which had been deployed on the Martian surface by the Mars rover Perseverence, managed to ascend to around three metres above the Martian surface, then hover for 30 seconds and rotate before landing.

Ingenuity drone helicopter images own shadow on Martian surface during its first flight. Courtesy: NASA-JPL/Caltech

Images and a video of the Ingenuity in flight taken by the Perseverance rover showing the helicopter hovering were received by NASA around four hours after the flight. The helicopter is equipped with counter-rotating blades that spin at about 2,400 rpm to deal with the planet’s thin atmosphere, which has less than one per cent of the density of the Earth’s and a third of the gravitational pull.  The craft has since made two more test flights.

Ingenuity is equipped with computers, navigation sensors and two cameras (one colour and one black-and-white). It also carries a postage-stamp-size piece of the Wright Flyer in which Orville and Wilbur Wright first achieved controlled, human-carrying powered flight in 1903.

It is hoped that the small craft will be able to explore caves that are littered with obstacles on the ground, making access difficult for Mars rovers in the past. The NASA team will continue to receive and study data in the coming days and then formulate a plan for the second flight.

A still from a camera on the Perseverance rover catching Ingenuity’s first flight. Courtesy of NASA JPL via Twitter.


Matthew Wilson and David Todd contributed to this article. 

About Seradata

Seradata produce the renowned SpaceTrak Launch & Satellite Database. Trusted by 100 of the world’s leading Space organisations, SpaceTrak is a fully queryable database used for market analysis, failure/risk assessment, spectrum analysis and space situational awareness (SSA).

For more information go to

Related Articles

Firefly Aerospace contracted to fly NASA JPL mission in 2022

On 18 February 2021 General Atomics has contracted Firefly Aerospace to launch the OTB-2 (MAIA) mission to LEO in 2022. Read more

ESA confirms selection of SSTL for second Scout mission, HydroGNSS

ESA selected the HydroGNSS satellite from British company SSTL as its second Scout mission in March. However, its was not Read more

American Astra Space and Taiwanese TiSPACE launch providers rebound from failures and plan further launches this year (Updated)

Two firms at different points along the process of developing an orbital rocket have outlined plans for their next launches. Read more

Rocket Lab selected to launch NASA solar sail test satellite in 2022

Rocket Lab has been selected to launch a NASA technology test satellite, scheduled for "mid-2022". The ACS3 (Advanced Composite Solar Read more

Rocket Lab selected to launch debris inspection satellite for Astroscale

Rocket Lab has secured another launch contract in September, this time with commercial space debris removal pioneer Astroscale. This contract Read more

ABL receives contract to launch Lockheed Martin developed NASA cryo-tech demo mission

ABL Space Systems, a prospective American launch provider, is set to launch a NASA science mission in 2023. The company Read more

Experimental communications satellites launched to LEO by China

A normally two-stage Long March 2C (CZ-2C) rocket with an Yuanzheng-1S upper-stage lifted-off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, China, Read more

Varda Space Industries orders three Photon buses from Rocket Lab (Updated)

Varda Space Industries a newspace company pioneering commercial microgravity manufacturing has contracted with Rocket Lab for three of its Photon Read more