The successful 14th flight of NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter took place shortly after 1:18 a.m. PDT on October 24, 2021, at Jezero Crater. As planned, the helicopter executed its first 2,700 rpm flight, proving that Ingenuity is capable of flying in the weeks and months ahead on Mars, during which seasonal changes on the surface will result in decreases in air density. The short 23-second flight included a peak altitude of 16 feet (5 meters) above ground level, with a small sideways translation of 7 feet (2 meters) to avoid a nearby sand ripple. This was also the first time Ingenuity recorded black-and-white navigation camera images at the high-rate of about seven frames a second.
The Mars Helicopter, Ingenuity, is a technology demonstration to test powered, controlled flight on another world for the first time. It hitched a ride to Mars on the Perseverance rover. Once the rover reached a suitable “airfield” location, it released Ingenuity to the surface so it could perform a series of test flights over a 30-Martian-day experimental window.
The helicopter completed its technology demonstration after three successful flights. For the first flight on April 19, 2021, Ingenuity took off, climbed to about 10 feet (3 meters) above the ground, hovered in the air briefly, completed a turn, and then landed. It was a major milestone: the very first powered, controlled flight in the extremely thin atmosphere of Mars, and, in fact, the first such flight in any world beyond Earth. After that, the helicopter successfully performed additional experimental flights of incrementally farther distance and greater altitude.
With its tech demo complete, Ingenuity transitioned to a new operations demonstration phase to explore how future rovers and aerial explorers can work together.