NASA created the Ingenuity helicopter as a purely technological showcase as it traveled to Mars in 2020 with the Perseverance rover. Even though it was not supposed to survive its first winter, the drone has flown 35 times on Mars and achieved its maximum altitude.
Although Mars has an atmosphere, it is less dense than Earth’s and primarily made of carbon dioxide. However, given the proper design considerations, it is feasible to fly on Mars. Given its 1.8-kilogram mass, Ingenuity would weigh 4 pounds on Earth but only 1.5 pounds on Mars. It has enough lift to soar through the air on Mars thanks to its large 4-foot (1.2-meter) rotors.
Shortly after landing, Ingenuity, which had been affixed to Perseverance’s underbelly during the trip to Mars, was deployed. After NASA completed the first Ingenuity flight in April 2021, the helicopter has flown 35 times, clocking in at a little under an hour per flight. It has traveled more than four and a half miles (nearly seven kilometers). Ingenuity took off from Airfield X on its most recent flight over the weekend and landed barely 49 feet (15 meters) away. However, the robot reached a record height of 46 feet during the 52-second flight (14 meters).
The success of Ingenuity might alter how we investigate Mars. Ingenuity is made of off-the-shelf parts, including a Snapdragon 801 smartphone processor, in contrast to Perseverance, which was built from the ground up using harsh, space-worthy electronics. And after all this time, it’s still alive. In reality, NASA has already begun to prepare for its upcoming Martian airborne exploration mission. A rover was initially planned for the next Mars Sample Return mission, but NASA recently decided against it and instead included two helicopters created by Ingenuity. Launching in the late 2020s, the sample return mission might have the samples back on Earth by 2033.