NASA’s Ingenuity Helicopter Completes First One-Way Trip on Mars at Record Breaking Altitude

NASA’s Ingenuity Helicopter Completes First One-Way Trip on Mars at Record Breaking Altitude
NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter’s fifth flight was captured on May 7, 2021, by one of the navigation cameras aboard the agency’s Perseverance rover. This was the first time it flew to a new landing site. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

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CAPE CANAVERAL, FL –  NASA’s history making Ingenuity Helicopter continues its astonishing mission with another pair of envelope stretching firsts by completing the first ever one way trip to a new airfield in the direction the Perseverance rover is heading and then soaring skyward to a new record high altitude above Mars during above Mars during its 5th successful test flight on May 7.

Both achievements will significantly enhance the ability of Ingenuity to function usefully in its new operational role of aiding further research and acting as an aerial scout on Mars for NASA’s Perseverance rover mothership- thereby fulfilling goals on this current mission rather than waiting for a future mission that is yet to be formulated.

Ingenuity performed flawlessly during its first one-way journey bidding adieu from ‘Wright Brothers Field’ to a new airfield 423 feet (129 meters) to the south while it was airborne for almost two minutes.

“Excelsior! The #MarsHelicopter completed its 1st one-way trip and 5th flight on Mars. It touched down at its new location, kicking off a new demo phase where we test this new tech and see how it can aid future missions on Mars and other worlds,” NASA JPL tweeted to confirm the 5th flight success.

Then after arriving above the new airfield, Ingenuity climbed higher than ever before soaring to a record breaking altitude of 33 feet (10 meters) – twice the previous altitude mark – while also capturing new high-resolution color images of its new neighborhood before touching down, NASA officials confirmed.

The previous record height was 16 feet (5 meters) achieved on flights 2,3 and 4.

“The fifth flight of the Mars Helicopter is another great achievement for the agency,” said Bob Pearce, associate administrator for NASA’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate, in a statement.

“The continuing success of Ingenuity proves the value of bringing together the strengths of diverse skill sets from across the agency to create the future, like flying an aircraft on another planet!”

The flight began at 3:26 p.m. EDT (12:26 p.m. PDT, 12:33 p.m. local Mars time) and lasted 108 seconds.

The Ingenuity team chose the new landing site based on information gathered during the previous flight – the first “aerial scout” operation on another world – which enabled them to generate digital elevation maps indicating almost completely flat terrain with almost no obstructions.


Video Caption:  NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter completed its fifth flight with a one-way journey from Wright Brothers Field to a new airfield 423 feet (129 meters) to the south on May 7, 2021. Ingenuity climbed to a new altitude record of 33 feet (10 meters). The flight is part of the rotorcraft’s transition to its new operations demonstration phase. This phase will focus on investigating how a rotorcraft can be used, and demonstrate products that only a rotorcraft can provide from its aerial vantage point. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The fifth flight retraced the path of the fourth flight by flying south 423 feet (129 meters) and then landing after 108 seconds aloft

“We bid adieu to our first Martian home, Wright Brothers Field, with grateful thanks for the support it provided to the historic first flights of a planetary rotorcraft,” said Bob Balaram, chief engineer for Ingenuity Mars Helicopter at JPL.

“No matter where we go from here, we will always carry with us a reminder of how much those two bicycle builders from Dayton meant to us during our pursuit of the first flight on another world.”

NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter’s was captured after landing on May 7, 2021, by the Mastcam-Z imager aboard the agency’s Perseverance rover. This was the helicopter’s fifth flight, and the first time the helicopter flew to a new landing site. It was airborne a total of 108 seconds. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU/MSSS

The challenges of flying are incredible because the fully autonomous flight is carried out in the extremely thin Martian atmosphere with few air molecules amounting to less than 1% as dense as Earth’s– approximately equivalent to 3 times the height of Mount Everest – and under frigid Antarctica-like conditions of minus 90 C (Minus 130 F).

NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter’s fourth flight path is superimposed here atop terrain imaged by the HiRISE camera aboard the agency’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Credit: NASA

Perseverance touched down at Octavia E. Butler Landing with Ingenuity attached to its belly on Feb. 18, 2021. The helicopter was deployed to the surface of Jezero Crater on April 3.

Since then Ingenuity has far surpassed all prelaunch objectives and far outstripped checkouts during testing on Earth while making history as humanity’s first aircraft to fly beyond Earth during the 1st test flight on April 19.

Now that Ingenuity has successfully landed at the new airfield nicknamed ‘Airfield B’ that lies along the southern path that the Perseverance rover will take  its future flight destination is yet to be determined.

The next flight will likely take place in two or three weeks.

“The plan forward is to fly Ingenuity in a manner that does not reduce the pace of Perseverance science operations,” said Balaram.

“We may get a couple more flights in over the next few weeks, and then the agency will evaluate how we’re doing. We have already been able to gather all the flight performance data that we originally came here to collect. Now, this new operations demo gives us an opportunity to further expand our knowledge of flying machines on other planets.”

The solar powered Ingenuity helicopter is a technology demonstration experiment aimed at attempting the first flight on Mars.

The four legged Ingenuity has a mass of about 4.0 pounds (1.8  kilograms) and stands 1.6 feet or 19 inches (0.49 meters) high.

NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter took this color image during its fourth flight on April 30, 2021. “Airfield B,” it’s new landing site, can be seen below; it will seek to set down there on its fifth flight attempt. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

Watch the May 7 edition of The Donlan Report on News Nation featuring my live interview analysis of the falling Chinese Long March 5B rocket and updates on Ingenuity results and SLS core stage arrival at KSC

Watch the May 10 edition of Stay Curious’ for my live interview about Ingenuity and Perseverance, as well as OSIRIS-Rex, Artemis, SLS, SpaceX launches and much more


Watch Ken’s continuing reports about Mars 2020 Perseverance and Curiosity rovers, Artemis and NASA missions, SpaceX, Starlink, Commercial Crew and Starliner and Crew Dragon and onsite for live reporting of upcoming and recent SpaceX and ULA launches including Crew 1 & 2, Demo-2, ISS, X-37B, Solar Orbiter, NRO spysats and national security missions and more at the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news: – – twitter @ken_kremer – email: ken at
Dr. Kremer is a research scientist and journalist based in the KSC area, active in outreach and interviewed regularly on TV and radio about space topics.
Ken’s photos are for sale and he is available for lectures and outreach events

Ken has created hundreds of widely published Mars rover mosaics and lectures also about NASA’s Mars rovers

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Ginny & Percy together on Mars! NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover took a selfie with the Ingenuity helicopter, seen here about 13 feet (3.9 meters) from the rover. This mosaic was taken by the WATSON camera on the rover’s robotic arm on Sol 46, April 6, 2021. Ingenuity rests between wheel track with view to Jezero Crater horizon. This Sol 46 mosaic is comprised of over 50 WATSON camera raw images and was stitched by Ken Kremer for Space UpClose. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS/Ken Kremer/Space UpClose


Ken Kremer

Watch for Ken’s continuing onsite coverage of NASA, SpaceX, ULA, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and more space and mission reports direct from Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida and Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Stay tuned here for Ken's continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news. Dr. Kremer is a research scientist and journalist based in the KSC area, active in outreach and interviewed regularly on TV and radio about space topics. Ken’s photos are for sale and he is available for lectures and outreach events.

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