In Space

Ingenuity pictured by Perserverance Rover

Ingenuity Keeps Pushing Forward, Sets New Altitude Record

After completing its 35th flight, NASA JPL’s Ingenuity helicopter has continued to soar over the Martian Jezero crater as it looks into the future of Martian flight.

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Ashe S.

Ashe S.

Sat Dec 10 2022Written by Ashe S.


After completing its 35th flight, NASA JPL’s Ingenuity helicopter has continued to soar over the Martian Jezero crater. The helicopter was launched on ULA’s Atlas 551 rocket on July 30th, 2022. This launch carried the Perseverance rover, twin to the Curiosity rover. Mars 2020 and the Perseverance rover were focused on Martian geology, with a suite of instruments on Perseverance all being focused on imaging, scanning, and mining rock samples across the extraterrestrial planet. Stowed away on the rover was the Ingenuity helicopter, a test demonstrator proving the ability of robotic flight on another planet.


Developed by NASA JPL, the Ingenuity mission strived to explore the skies over the surface of Mars. Ingenuity is a small, single axis, dual rotor helicopter. By varying the speed and angle of each of its 4 blades, Ingenuity has full range in motion in the atmosphere. Each rotor rotates in opposite directions, which helps keep balance during flight and allows for substantially more lift in the thin atmosphere of Mars. Only weighing 1.8 kilograms on Earth and 0.7 kilograms on Mars, the helicopter has managed to exploit the thin atmosphere for its flights. The helicopter also features 4 legs to help keep balance while landed, and can act as shock absorbers in the case of catastrophic failure during flight. For power, Ingenuity has a solar panel mounted to the top of its rotor axis, and remains fixed during flight. Ingenuity first took flight on April 19th, and has continued to break its own records in altitude, flight time, and speed. Originally slated for a mere 5 flights, Ingenuity has far exceeded its expected life and continues to break boundaries in the Martian airspace. 

Recent Flights

On December 6th, Ingenuity flew its 35th mission, breaking its own altitude record to a new height of 14 meters above the surface.  This flight marks the seven times operation expected lifetime for ingenuity, and is showing no signs of slowing. Immediately following confirmation of this flight, NASA JPL announced another flight for the helicopter for December 10th, which will be flying to an altitude of 10 meters and a distance of 100 meters across an estimated 60 seconds. Ingenuity’s mission as a technology demonstrator has been well completed, and now assists the Mars-2020 mission in many ways. The down-facing camera provides detailed imagery of the surface under the craft, which can be used for research on different formations and rock types of the area, along with assisting the Perseverance rover trek over land devoid of object interference, or highlight areas of interest. Ingenuity’s legacy still lives on, especially with the future of Mars missions in the near future

Mars Sample Return

Ingenuity’s mission does not end with the Mars-2020 mission. Announced on July 27th, NASA has begun development of two Ingenuity-class helicopters for the Mars Sample Return (MSR) mission, which will attempt to bring Mars rock samples back to earth with a series of robotic missions backing up the mission. After the perseverance rover has collected its array of samples, it will store, safe, and seal its contents in an internal storage mechanism. NASA will then launch a series of missions consisting of a Martian Orbiter and a Lander, which contains two Ingenuity-class helicopters and a rocket capable of reaching Martian orbit. The perseverance rover will attempt to drive to the lander to transfer its samples to the rocket stored inside the lander. In the case that the rover experiences wheel failure or gets stuck, it will drop the sealed sample containers and the two helicopters, now outfitted with wheels on each leg, will maneuver to grab samples and shuttle them to the lander. After being stored, the rocket will liftoff and fly into orbit, where it will be captured by the Orbiter and return to earth orbit.

Ingenuity’s story and impact is still growing as this tiny demonstrator continues to
rock the martian airspace and reach for new heights.