Editor’s note: Congratulations to the Ingenuity team for being honored with the prestigious Collier Trophy. Details here.
NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter has completed its three technology demonstration flights. For the first flight on April 19, 2021, Ingenuity took off, climbed to about 10 feet (3 meters) above the ground, hovered in the air briefly, completed a turn, and then landed. It was a major milestone: the very first powered, controlled flight in the extremely thin atmosphere of Mars – a Wright Brothers moment. After that, the helicopter successfully performed additional experimental flights of incrementally farther distance and greater altitude.
With its tech demo complete, Ingenuity has transitioned to a new operations demonstration phase to explore how future rovers and aerial explorers can work together. More information about Ingenuity on Mars, including the latest status reports and imagery, is available here.
A small team of NASA’s aeronautical innovators contributed their expertise to help the Ingenuity team achieve mission success. Links to content related to Aeronautics’ involvement with Ingenuity and helicopters in general are listed on this page, as well as links to related STEM activities at the bottom of the page.
NASA’s Aeronautics Experts Help Prepare Ingenuity to Fly on Mars
A team of NASA helicopter experts from the Ames Research Center in California assisted the Ingenuity team in making sure the technology demonstrator had the best chance for success in flying in the super thin atmosphere of the Red Planet. Read about their work here.
NASA is With You When You Fly, Even on Mars
According to the 1958 law that established NASA, where the first “A” in NASA stands for aeronautics, the agency is charged with solving the problems of flight within the atmosphere. But the law doesn’t say which planet’s atmosphere. Here is an introduction from 2019 about NASA Aeronautics’ work on the Mars Helicopter.
Four Ways NASA in Silicon Valley is Helping NASA’s Next Mars Mission
Groundbreaking technologies aboard NASA’s Mars 2020 mission have roots right here in Silicon Valley. Read on to learn more!
Revolutionary Vertical Lift Technology Project
NASA’s work on helicopter technology dates back to its predecessor organization, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics. Catch up with what’s going on with the rotor dynamics researchers here.
Back on Earth: Advanced Air Mobility Mission
It will be a long, long time before any resident on Mars can order the latest book online and have it delivered to their front door by one of hundreds of drones darting about the sky on any given day. But for us Earthlings that future is much closer than you think. NASA Aeronautics is leading the way to make what’s called Advanced Air Mobility a reality. Read about our mission here.
Mars 2020 STEM Toolkit
Here is a collection of online STEM-related products about the Mars 2020 mission with Perseverance and Ingenuity. It includes hands-on activities, interactive multimedia, lesson plans and activities, play and learn, posters, read about it, and videos. There’s something here for educators, parents, and students from Kindergarten through High School.
STEM Aeronautics Activities Related to Ingenuity
Most of these activities are available from the Mars 2020 STEM Toolkit listed above, but here are links to some of those that are directly related to aeronautics.
Despite the difference in planets involved, Ingenuity’s planned, and the Wright Brothers’ historic, first powered, controlled flights have a lot of similarities. These include the process of invention and testing, as well as embodying the spirit of innovation and exploration. In addition to the Mars 2020 STEM Toolkit activities listed above, the following resources can be used to further explore the processes and science associated with flight, especially vertical flight as Ingenuity on Mars and helicopters on Earth are designed to do.
Aeronautics for Pre-K, which includes a section on helicopters
Aeronautics @ Home Ingenuity activities:
Watch the video from which this image was captured.