Story at a glance

  • The 4-pound helicopter lifted off the Martian surface Thursday morning, climbing to a height of 16 feet and hovering in the air for about 52 seconds.
  • The aircraft also performed a 5-degree tilt and was able to accelerate sideways for 7 feet.
  • Ingenuity made history on Tuesday by carrying out the first-ever powered and controlled flight of an aircraft on another planet.

NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter successfully carried out a second and more challenging flight on Mars. 

The 4-pound helicopter lifted off the Martian surface Thursday morning, climbing to a height of 16 feet and hovering in the air for about 52 seconds. The aircraft also performed a 5-degree tilt and was able to accelerate sideways for 7 feet. 


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“So far, the engineering telemetry we have received and analyzed tell us that the flight met expectations and our prior computer modeling has been accurate,” Bob Balaram, chief engineer for Ingenuity at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, said

“We have two flights of Mars under our belts, which means that there is still a lot to learn during this month of Ingenuity,” Balaram said. 

Ingenuity made history on Tuesday by carrying out the first-ever powered and controlled flight of an aircraft on another planet. The flight topped out at 10 feet above the surface and hovered in the air for more than 30 seconds. 

Both flights were captured by a camera fixed to the Perseverance rover that’s on a two-year mission to roam the planet’s surface to search for signs of ancient life. Ingenuity also captured several images with its own camera during the flights. The helicopter has sent back black-and-white images from its second flight. 

While the gravity on Mars is approximately one-third of that on Earth’s, getting the helicopter off the ground is challenging, as Mars’s atmosphere is about 1 percent the density of Earth at its surface. Engineers used ultralight materials and 4-foot propellers that spin faster than those needed on Earth to get Ingenuity off the ground. 

The Ingenuity team hopes to fly the chopper several more times on the red planet. Researchers say the achievement opens the door to another dimension of planetary exploration, using powered flight to study the mysteries of Mars and other planets.


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Published on Apr 22, 2021