April 7, 2022

Mars Helicopter wins Collier Trophy

Jon Robinson

NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter Team, primarily based at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, has been named the recipient of the 2021 Robert J. Collier Trophy for the first powered, controlled flight of an aircraft on another planet – “Thereby opening the skies of Mars and other worlds for future scientific discovery and exploration.”

Since 1911, the Collier Trophy has been awarded annually by the National Aeronautic Association (NAA) to recognize what it sees as the greatest achievement in aeronautics or astronautics in America. Last year, Garmin Autoland was awarded the prize for what the company describes as the world’s first certified autonomous system designed to activate during an emergency to safely fly and land an aircraft without human intervention.

“While NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter team expanded the flight envelope by 100-million miles, we know we didn’t do it alone,” said Larry James, Interim-Director of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. “For it was the efforts and ingenuity of those women and men who developed and tested cutting-edge vehicles before us that helped make powered-controlled flight on another planet possible.”

NAA notes 117 years after the Wright brothers succeeded in making the first powered flight on Earth, the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter performed this amazing feat on another world. On April 19, 2021, Ingenuity lifted off from the surface of Mars, climbed to the prescribed altitude of 10 feet, and maintained a stable hover for 30 seconds. It then descended, touching back down on the surface of Mars after logging a total of 39.1 seconds of flight, thereby becoming the first aircraft in history to make a powered-controlled flight on another planet.

(Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech)