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The American Helicopter Museum and Education Center (AHMEC) has announced that NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter team is this year’s winner of its prestigious Achievement Award for innovation in rotary wing flight. Members of the innovative team are slated to attend AHMEC’s annual Gala in October during which they will receive the award.
“The AHMEC Board unanimously voted to approve the Mars Ingenuity team as this year’s recipient of its Achievement Award,” explained Bob Beggs, AHMEC’s co-founder and award chairman, “citing not only the team’s significant technical accomplishment but its demonstration of the unmatched versatility of rotary wing aircraft which extends beyond our world.”
The Ingenuity Mars Helicopter launched on Jul. 30, 2020, attached to the Mars 2020 Perseverance rover’s undercarriage. They landed in Jezero Crater on Feb.18, 2021, ready to explore the red planet and begin their mission of demonstrating rotorcraft flight in Mars’ extremely thin atmosphere.
The four-pound autonomous helicopter’s coaxial rotor system features four carbon-fiber blades arranged into two counter-rotating rotors that spin at about 2,400 rpm. Its fuselage is about the size of a tissue box that holds computers, batteries, sensors, heaters, and telecommunications hardware. Ingenuity also sports a downward-facing black-and-white navigation camera on the fuselage’s bottom and a horizon-facing color terrain camera on one of its bottom edges.
Ingenuity’s historic first flight occurred on Apr. 19, 2021. The little chopper lifted 10 feet above the dusty surface and remained aloft for 39 seconds. Following several successful flights and having accomplished its early goals, the rotorcraft expanded its objectives to include exploration beyond Perseverance’s radius.