It keeps going and going: NASA's Mars helicopter makes 40th flight

Ingenuity completed its 40th flight, traveling a distance of 561 feet. The success of Ingenuity prompted NASA to add two small helicopters to its Mars sample return mission in 2028.

Ingenuity, NASA's first helicopter on Mars, continues to overachieve more than a year into its demonstration mission.

The space agency said Ingenuity recently took its 40th flight on Mars. That's quite an accomplishment when you consider that the 4-pound helicopter was sent to the red planet on the underbelly of NASA's Perseverance rover with the goal of achieving even just one vertical flight on Mars. 

Ingenuity became the first aircraft to make a controlled flight and landing on another world on April 21, 2021, and almost two years later it just keeps flying.


According to NASA, Ingenuity completed its 40th flight on Friday, flying up to 33 feet and traveling a distance of 561 feet. Heading northwest at 7.2 mph, the helicopter was repositioned from Airfield Zeta to Airfield Beta.

Ingenuity has two cameras – one black-and-white used for navigation and one color. 

Using its navigation camera, Ingenuity sent back the image below from its 40th flight. This camera points directly downward to track the ground during flight, according to NASA.

The success of Ingenuity made NASA partially rethink its Mars sample return mission game plan. 

The space agency plans to send two tiny helicopters to Mars with another lander in 2028. Perseverance will bring the Mars samples to the new lander, which will also carry the Mars Ascent Vehicle, but the helicopters will serve as backups to help with the sample transfer if needed. 

Ingenuity doesn't usually go far from the rover Perseverance. The two Mars robots can keep an eye on each other as they traverse Jezero Crater looking for signs of microbial life.

NASA has a map that shows where Ingenuity and the Perseverance rover are located.