NASA’s Mars helicopter completed 17th mission to the Red Planet, even though it was only designed for five.

The first plane to fly from another planet’s surface, Ingenuity took off on a 117 second trip. It is now closer to its home base, and will await the arrival the US’s latest rover.

Perseverance is currently exploring the South Séítah region of Mars’ Jezero Crater as it searches for ancient microbial life on the Red Planet.

Mars helicopter took its last flight to Mars on December 5. This brings the total time of Mars helicopter flights up to 30 minutes, 48 seconds.

Ingenuity has traveled a total of 2.2 miles (3592 metres). It flew at 40 feet (12 m), and as fast 10 mph (5 m/s) over that period.

This far surpasses the original plans for the 4-pound (1.8-kilogram), 18-inches tall rotorcraft, which was due to complete up to five test flights on the Red Planet.

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NASA's Mars helicopter Ingenuity (circled) has completed its 17th flight on the Red Planet

NASA’s Mars helicopter Ingenuity has successfully completed 17th mission to the Red Planet.

Ingenuity, the first aircraft to operate from the surface of another world, took off for a 117-second trip as it inches closer to its original airfield, where it'll await the arrival of the US space agency's newest rover

The first plane to fly from another planet’s surface, Ingenuity took off on a 117 second trip. It is now closer to its home airfield where it will await the arrival the US space agency’s latest rover.


One flight: April 19, 2021: Vertical takeoffs up to 9.8ft high, stationary hovers and landings 

Fly two April 22, 2021 with a vertical takeoff up to 16ft, hover, then shift westward for 14ft before returning and landing 

Threerd flight: April 25, 2021: Vertical takeoff to heights of 16ft. Then, hover and shift northwards to 328ft at a speed of 2 m/s. Before returning to the land, return to earth.

Fourth flight April 30, 2021 with a vertical takeoff up to 16ft, hover, shift southwards 873ft at 3.5m/s before returning to land 

Fly five May 7, 2021 with a vertical takeoff up to 33ft, hover, shift southwards 423ft at 3.5 m/s before landing at that new location

Sixth flight: May 22, 2021 with a vertical takeoff of 33ft, hover, shift southwest 492ft at 9mph, travel 49ft south, travel 164ft before returning to land 

Seventh flight: June 8, 2021 with a vertical takeoff of 33ft, hover, shift 348ft at 9mph, land at Airfield D

Flight eight: June 21, 2021 with a vertical takeoff, hover, shift southwest 520ft, land at Airfield E 438ft away from Perseverance

Flight nine: July 5, 2021 with a record length of 2,050ft southwest over a prospective research location at 16ft per second.

Fly ten: July 24, 2021 with a record height of 40 feet (12 metres) over Raised Ridges to Airfield G. Flight duration 165.4 seconds.   

Flight eleven: August 5, 2021 by flying 1,250ft for 130 seconds in preparation for a series of reconnaissance missions for the Perseverance rover.

Fly Twelve August 16, 2021 by flying 1,476ft for 169 seconds, climbing 32.8ft in the air, over the ‘South Seitah’ region of Mars. 

Flight Thirteen September 5, 2021 by flying 690ft for 160.5 seconds, climbing 26ft over one particular ridgeline over the ‘South Seitah’ region of Mars. 

Flight Fourteen October 25, 2021 by flying a ‘short hop’ of 6.5ft (2m) to test out higher rpm settings. At an altitude (16ft) it flew 23 seconds at 1mph.

Fly Fifteen November 6, 2021 by flying back towards its original landing site. At an estimated 11mph, it flew for 128 seconds.

Take Flight Sixteen November 20, 2021 by travelling 381ft (116m) for a total of 108 seconds at an estimated 3mph.

Fly Seventeen December 5, 2021 by flying back toward the Wright Brothers Field at the Octavia E. Butler landing site. The aircraft flew 614ft (187m), for an average of 6mph, and flew for 117 seconds. 

It arrived on Mars attached to the belly of Perseverance, which touched down on Mars on February 18 after a nearly seven-month journey through space. 

Ingenuity’s historic first flight was made on April 19, 2021. This marked Ingenuity as the first controlled powered flight on another planet.

Ingenuity is carrying a little bit of fabric from the Wright Brothers’ first controlled powered flight, in 1903. 

Once the flight proved possible, four additional trips were made by the helicopter, each with longer flights and more difficult maneuvering. Engineers at Jet Propulsion Laboratory looked into the performance of the helicopter to understand it better. 

“Few people thought that we’d make it to flight 1, and even fewer to five. 

Teddy Tzanetos, Ingenuity Team Lead at JPL said that “And nobody thought we’d make it this far.” 

“On the way to collecting over a minute aloft Ingenuity has endured eight months of bitter winter and been able to operate out of nine Martian aircraftfields. 

“The aircraft’s continued operation speaks to the robustness of its design, and the dedication and passion displayed by our small operations staff.”

Ingenuity’s 17th flight was interrupted by an unexpected interruption to the in-flight information stream when the helicopter began its descent toward the surface.

Perseverance acts as an earth-based communications center for the helicopter, but it was not able to give enough information to the JPL team to call the flight a success.

Separate data had to be transferred to JPL’s California California base last Friday (10/12). This confirmed that Ingenuity had performed well and the mission was successful.

Helicopter didn’t have to wait long before it flew its next flight. It was due to depart yesterday (December 15).

NASA is yet to release any information about the event.

The plan is for Ingenuity to cover another 754 feet (230 metres) at a speed of 5.6 mph (2.5 metres per second) over 125 seconds.  

Like flight 17 and 18, number 18 will push the boundaries of the rotorcraft’s radio range, performance, and capabilities.

JPL’s team has changed the flight sequence in order to transmit data at a lower rate. They hope this will increase signal strength and give the best chance for maintaining radio links throughout the landing.  

Tzanetos said that, “If radio links are lost on landing it can take days or weeks before the line of sight between Ingenuity & Perseverance is sufficient to attempt communication sessions.”

“While post-flight data analysis may be delayed is an inconvenience. However, this is becoming the norm as we operate on challenging terrain for the next few weeks.

Ingenuity flew 614ft (187m) for a total of 117 seconds at an estimated 6mph. It is heading back to the Wright Brothers Field at the Octavia E. Butler landing site, to meet up with Perseverance

The Ingenuity flight was 614 feet (187m) in 117 seconds and an average speed of 6mph. It is heading back to the Wright Brothers Field at the Octavia E. Butler landing site, to meet up with Perseverance 

Perseverance serves as the helicopter's communications base station for engineers on Earth

Perseverance is the communications station of the helicopter for engineers around Earth.

Ingenuity (pictured in an artist's impression) is currently acting as a scout for the Perseverance rover, which is searching for ancient microbial life on the Red Planet

Artist’s impression of Ingenuity: This is Ingenuity, who is serving as an agent for Perseverance Rover. It is looking for old microbial life in the Red Planet.

It’s all about ingenuity. 

It currently acts as a scout to the Perseverance Rover, collecting sample to return to Earth in the early 2030s. 

Perseverance flew its first Mars flight test on March 4. NASA announced that Ingenuity, Perseverance’s “belly”, had been lifted to Mars’ surface by NASA in preparation for this historic flight.

Ingenuity’s onboard inertial measure unit (IMU), tracks the acceleration and speed of Ingenuity while it is airborne.

This information can be combined over time to give an estimate of where it is and what speed it moves. It also gives us the ability to determine how its orientation in space.

The onboard control system reacts to the estimated motions by adjusting control inputs rapidly – at a rate of 500 times per second.


NASA’s Mars 2020 mission launched in 2020 to look for evidence of life on Mars. This was done in an effort to better help scientists understand the origins of life on Earth during the early years of our solar system evolution.

Named Perseverance, the main car-sized rover is exploring an ancient river delta within the Jezero Crater, which was once filled with a 1,600ft deep lake.

It is believed that the region hosted microbial life some 3.5 to 3.9 billion years ago and the rover will examine soil samples to hunt for evidence of the life.

Nasa's Mars 2020 rover (artist's impression) is searching for signs of ancient life on Mars in a bid to help scientists better understand how life evolved on our own planet

Nasa’s Mars 2020 Rover (artist’s impression) searches for evidence of life from Mars to aid scientists in better understanding how our planet evolved.

The $2.5 billion (£1.95 billion) Mars 2020 spaceship launched on July 30 with the rover and helicopter inside – and landed successfully on February 18, 2021.

Perseverance was able to land inside the crater, collecting samples which will be eventually returned to Earth.

In partnership with the European Space Agency, a second mission may be flown to the surface of the moon and will return samples.

This concept art shows the Mars 2020 rover landing on the red planet via NASA's 'sky-crane' system

Concept art depicting the Mars 2020 Rover landing on Mars via NASA’s “sky-crane” system