The importance if Ingenuity's flight

Ingenuity's flight is a technology and engineering achievement.

  • Flight requires lift. On Earth, with an average air pressure of 1000 millibar, a helicopter blade spins at a rate of 400 to 500 rotations per minute to create lift. On Mars, gravity is about one-third of Earth. Ingenuity's blades had to rotate about 2400 times per minute to provide lift, a significant advance in propulsion technology.
  • Ingenuity doesn't have rear rotor blades for steering, and commands cannot be given in real-time. It takes 20 minutes for a command to reach the planet.
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NASA's Mars helicopter Ingenuity makes history
  • On 19 April 2021, NASA's helicopter Ingenuity took its first flight on Mars. A video, taken by the Perseverance rover, showed its entire flight, from take-off to landing.
  • Ingenuity rose about three metres above the ground before landing again. The 40 seconds in the air was of a similar level of significance as the first successful powered flight on Earth - which lasted for 12 seconds.

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Ingenious fly

Imagine that you are flying your drone on a planet 180 million kilometres away. It takes 20 minutes for your command to reach the planet – and the pictures you see of what is happening are 20 minutes old. You cannot take evasive or corrective action if anything goes wrong, it would take too late. This is the type of situation that the NASA's engineers did not wish to experience on the first flight of the "Ingenuity" helicopter on Mars on April 19.

What Mars Is Like

Mars is currently a dry and irradiated planet according to our robot friends, Perseverance and Curiosity. Evidence suggests that Mars was once a wet planet, however, there is substantial debate regarding Mars' origins and the life span of its long-lost bodies of water.

Some theory suggests that it might have been because of active volcanoes that melted the Martian permafrost, while others suggest that it was because of a cataclysmic asteroid impact.

How planes fly

Planes can fly quite easily without engines, as gliders (planes without engines), paper planes, and gliding birds show us.

A plane's engine is designed to move the plane forward at high speed. The wings move a plane upward. At high speed, the air flows fast over the wings and throws the air down toward the ground, generating an upward force, or lift. The upward force overcomes the plane's weight and keeps it in the sky.

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