First Flight

Ingenuity's first flight: Expectations versus reality

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.

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.


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.


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


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.

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.


And here’s what it looked like.


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


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


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.


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.


Read more stories on NASA here.

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