NASA’s Ingenuity Mars helicopter has been awarded ‘Laureate’ for its “extraordinary achievements in aerospace” by the Aviation Week Network.
The prestigious honor recognizes the pioneering rotorcraft for its history-making flights on the Red Planet, NASA said in a statement on Tuesday.
When the 1.8-kilogram rotorcraft hovered on Mars for 39.1 seconds on April 19, 2021, it was the first instance of powered, controlled flight on another planet — a true Wright brothers moment. Since then, Ingenuity has chalked up 11 flights, with a total distance of just over 2.2 kilometers, reaching an altitude record of 12 meters in its 10th sortie.
“The helicopter has succeeded in ways the Ingenuity team could only have imagined at the outset of this project,” said Teddy Tzanetos, Operations Lead, Ingenuity, in the statement.
“The small but mighty team behind this small but mighty rotorcraft is, needless to say, thrilled at its success and honored for the acknowledgment. We’re also eager to see what comes next with the operations demonstration,” Tzanetos added.
Ingenuity hitched a ride to the Red Planet on Perseverance, which landed on February 2021. It was designed as a technology demonstration and carries no science payloads onboard. Its mission was to prove that humanity can fly powered vehicles on Mars.
After Ingenuity achieved its tech demo goals, the helicopter entered its current operations demonstration phase to test its abilities as an aerial explorer, quickly imaging and scouting areas of Mars. This capability has proven useful to Perseverance operators and scientists.
During its most recent flights, Ingenuity has surveyed areas of particular interest for Perseverance to potentially explore in its hunt for signs of ancient life.
The helicopter is paving the way for possible future missions that could use rotorcraft to help scout, explore, and even carry science payloads on other worlds, NASA said.
For over 60 years, Aviation Week Network’s Laureate Awards have recognized the extraordinary achievements of individuals and teams in business aviation, aerospace, and defense.
Others in the category of space to win the coveted award include Northrop Grumman’s Mission Extension Vehicle and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon Demo-2.
The Laureate award will be presented at a ceremony in October in McLean, Virginia.