NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter Completes 50th Flight

While NASA’s Perseverance rover brought an array of impressive scientific equipment to the surface of Mars, certainly its most famous payload is the stowaway helicopter Ingenuity. Despite being little more than a restricted-budget experiment using essentially only off-the-shelf components that you can find in your smartphone and e-waste drawer, the tenacious drone managed to complete its fiftieth flight on April 13 — just days before the two year anniversary of its first flight, which took place on April 19th of 2021.

Engineers hoped that Ingenuity would be able to show that a solar-powered drone could function in the extremely thin atmosphere of Mars, but the experiment ended up wildly exceeding expectations.  No longer a simple technology demonstrator, the helicopter has become an integral part of Perseverance’s operations. Through its exploratory flights Ingenuity can scout ahead, picking the best spots for the much slower rover, with rough terrain only becoming a concern when it’s time to land.

Since leaving the relatively flat Jezero Crater floor on January 19th of 2023, Ingenuity has had to contend with significantly harsher terrain. Thanks to upgraded navigation firmware the drone is better to determine safe landing locations, but each flight remains a white-knuckle event. This is also true for each morning’s wake-up call. Although the rover is powered and heated continuously due to its nuclear power source, Ingenuity goes into standby mode overnight, after which it must re-establish its communication with the rover.

Though there’s no telling what the future may hold for Ingenuity, one thing is certain — its incredible success will shape upcoming missions. NASA is already looking at larger, more capable drones to be sent on future missions, which stand to help us explore the Red Planet planet faster than ever. Not a bad for a flying smartphone.

Thanks to [Mark Stevens] for the tip.

20 thoughts on “NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter Completes 50th Flight

    1. Go take a look at the NASA budget compared to the amount allocated to the American Military Complex, then redirect your derision towards that “worthy” expenditure instead and away from STEM fields.

        1. You can’t jus throw money at phisics problems, there are billions involved into fusion reaction research, but that’s not the point, the point is that it’s not viable. Go help yourself with some information about the challenges of fusion and then come back here trolling. Dude.

          1. people have always been overoptimistic about fusion. not to say that its a mad quest, the eventual gains will far outweigh the cost of getting there though it may take a hundred years. best thing you can do now is accept the limits of green technology and start building fission plants as a stopgap. putting all the funds into one technology is like putting all the eggs into one basket.

            you want to know who wastes the most funds? bureaucrats. they will get a billion dollar budget to help the poor and funnel most of it into their own inefficiencies (not to mention bonuses). after all if they actually were to solve the problem then they would be out of a job. thats probibly one of the zeros in the iter budget right there.

    2. @Mike, without any aim to start a debate, maybe our planet not because of lack of money but just by misuse and incompetence of lots of political leaders all around the globe

    3. Obvious troll is obvious.

      Firstly, the money is already spent. Secondly, there’s plenty of money down here, except it’s all tied up in Bezos and Musk’s accounts. How did we allow that to happen? Thirdly, you can get involved in the poor state of affairs down here and improve them. Which would be better than whining about things on some random tech blog comment section. Have a great day!

      1. Actually you missed the most obvious point of all. Critics like Mike like to say that NASA “pisses away money off-world.” Wrong. Every dollar spent on the space program is actually spent right here on earth. That money employs many thousands of people (who feed, clothe, and house their families with the income) and the solutions developed for complex space flight problems of result in new technologies that create new jobs and solve earth-bound problems.

        Appreciate space research or not, in this sense it qualifies as another social program.

    4. money is fake. nation-states don’t pay for things, they just do them. the problem with the american government isn’t that it does too many things, but that is doesn’t do enough.

    5. i suppose you would rather spend that money converting farmland/wildlife preserves into solar power plants. and the worlds not falling apart despite what that engineered to become e-waste phone in your hands is telling you. want to help, maybe protest less and join the ranks of the engineers and scientists who are actually working the problems. in the mean time go outside and get some fresh air.

    6. If our world is suffering, it is because of ignorance like yours. All that money spent to investigate Mars is spent right here on earth (not “off world”), providing jobs and a future for thousands of people and their families, and it pales in comparison to the money wasted on far less useful projects. Grow up.

  1. My favorite example when talking about open source software and open hardware standards for autonomouse systems. Did you know that the flying smartphone is running F Prime on Linux? Checkout their documentation and github repo while I go and update my presentation for tomorrow… Thanks for the hint!

  2. What I like on this is that they are using open source software and open hardware … and it works rather well. None of the mega hardening of electronics that other projects require, yet here it is running a standard Lipo battery and such…. and surviving the harsh Martian environment. A cheap, very nice proof of concept that panned out very well.

    Nice to see our tax money being spent on worthwhile projects, then all the wasted money going elsewhere. Man needs a challenging frontier to grow rather than stagnate. Space is it.

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