On July 30, 2020, the Perseverance Rover was launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Its mission was to get to Mars and help us get a better understanding of the red planet as well as search for signs of ancient Martian life.

But the Perseverance was not alone on this trip. It had a small partner called the Ingenuity.

The Ingenuity, often referred to at NASA as simply “Ginny”, was a small autonomous helicopter (drone) that barely weighed 4 pounds (1.8 Kg). Initially, it was attached to the belly of the rover, but two months after its arrival on Mars, the Ingenuity took flight and became the first controlled device to fly on another planet.

So, what happened to this Martian helicopter? Here is a short timeline of its mission.

Inaugural Flight: A Historic Achievement

In April 2021, Ingenuity achieved a historic feat by executing the first powered and controlled flight on Mars. Designed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in collaboration with industry partners, Ingenuity’s successful flight demonstrated the feasibility of aerial exploration in Mars’ challenging environment. This achievement was met with global acclaim and heralded a new era in planetary exploration.

Extended Mission: Surpassing Expectations

Originally intended for a brief technology demonstration, Ingenuity exceeded expectations by completing 72 flights over nearly three years. Its operational capabilities far surpassed initial projections, allowing it to serve as an invaluable asset in the exploration of Mars. As an aerial scout, Ingenuity provided vital data to support the mission objectives of the Perseverance rover, aiding in the identification of scientifically significant sites and enhancing our understanding of Martian geography.

Ginny also sent us some of the best photos that we have of the Martian surface.

Photo of the Martian surface taken by the Mars helicopter
Photo of the Martian surface taken by the Mars helicopter

Unexpected Conclusion: Damage and Grounding

On January 18, 2024, Ingenuity encountered an unforeseen setback during its 72nd flight. Damage to its rotor blades occurred upon landing, rendering the helicopter inoperable. Despite efforts to assess and mitigate the damage, it became clear that Ingenuity’s operational life had come to an end. One week later, NASA officially announced the conclusion of the mission, marking the end of an era in Martian exploration.

The Ingenuity now lies waiting in an area called Valinor Hills, named after JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. Hopefully, in a future mission, we will be able to recover its body and return it to Earth so it can be displayed in a museum.


  • The Ingenuity Mars helicopter successfully landed and took flight on Mars along with the Perseverance rover.
  • The Ingenuity exceeded expectations and completed 72 flights.
  • In January 2024, the Ingenuity was unfortunately damaged and its mission was officially ended.

Elena is a Canadian journalist and researcher. She has been looking at the sky for years and hopes to introduce more people to the wonderful hobby that is astronomy.