First Flight

Ingenuity's first flight: Expectations versus reality

NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Ingenuity Mars helicopter made its historic first flight early on Monday, April 19, more than a week after its expected launch date.

Here’s how the Ingenuity’s flight stacked up to NASA’s expectations.

NASA/JPL-Caltech

Before its first flight, Ingenuity had to complete the trip from the Perseverance rover’s underside to the Martian surface. Here’s a test of the helicopter’s deployment system on Earth.

Lockheed Martin Space

On Mars, the maneuver went flawlessly, depositing Ingenuity safely on the planet’s rocky surface.

NASA/JPL-Caltech

Ingenuity then spread its wings with a rotor test to ensure its blades would spin properly during the flight planned for a few days later. So far, so good.

NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU

A high-speed test was up next, where Ingenuity was expected to spin its rotors at the speed needed to maintain flight.

NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU

Reality got in the way of expectations when a software error kept Ingenuity’s blades from spinning at the speed required for its upcoming flight.

NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU

From its troubled test on April 9 until the early hours of April 19, Ingenuity sat on the surface of Mars, missing its anticipated first flight date by a week. During that time, it had to weather repeated frigid nights.

Here’s how NASA envisioned Ingenuity’s first flight.

NASA/JPL-Caltech

And here’s what it looked like.

NASA JPL

Ingenuity hovered three meters above the surface of Mars for its historic 40-second flight.

NASA

Though its main purpose is to test powered flight on Mars, Ingenuity will also be documenting the planet from above.

NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA/JPL-Caltech

Here’s the first in-flight POV shot from Ingenuity, showing the helicopter’s own shadow on the Martian surface.

Ingenuity is expected to make several more flights during its 30-day test window before the Perseverance rover moves on from its Jezero Crater landing site.

NASA/JPL-Caltech

Beyond that, NASA hopes the tiny helicopter will pave the way for more aircraft to fly on Mars, perhaps even helping with future crewed missions.NASA

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NASA/JPL-Caltech