NASA JPL, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, Calif. – NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter took this color image from an altitude of 33 feet (10 meters) during its fifth flight on May 7, 2021. This was the helicopter’s first one-way flight, and it settled down at a new landing location 423 feet (129 meters) south of its previous location at Wright Brothers Field. The contrast has been enhanced to show surface details.
The Ingenuity Mars Helicopter was built by JPL, which also manages the technology demonstration project for NASA Headquarters. It is supported by NASA’s Science, Aeronautics Research, and Space Technology mission directorates. NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley, and NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, provided significant flight performance analysis and technical assistance during Ingenuity’s development. AeroVironment Inc., Qualcomm, and SolAero also provided design assistance and major vehicle components. Lockheed Martin Space designed and manufactured the Mars Helicopter Delivery System.
About the mission
The Mars Helicopter, Ingenuity, is a small, autonomous aircraft that will be carried to the surface of the Red Planet attached to the belly of the Perseverance rover. Its mission is experimental in nature and completely independent of the rover’s science mission. In the months after landing, the helicopter will be placed on the surface to test – for the first time ever – powered flight in the thin Martian air. Its performance during these experimental test flights will help inform decisions relating to considering small helicopters for future Mars missions, where they could perform in a support role as robotic scouts, surveying terrain from above, or as full standalone science craft carrying instrument payloads. Taking to the air would give scientists a new perspective on a region’s geology and even allow them to peer into areas that are too steep or slippery to send a rover. In the distant future, they might even help astronauts explore Mars. The project is solely a demonstration of technology; it is not designed to support the Mars 2020/Perseverance mission, which is searching for signs of ancient life and collecting samples of rock and sediment in tubes for potential return to Earth by later missions.