Biggest Moments on Mars: NASA’s Perseverance Rover 2021 Year in Review

A new video looks back on the six-wheeled scientist’s first 10 months on the Red Planet and all that it’s accomplished so far.

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA’s Perseverance rover has been busy since its harrowing touchdown in Mars’ Jezero Crater this past February.

In the 10 months since, the car-size rover has driven 1.8 miles (2.9 kilometers), set a record for the longest rover drive in a Martian day, taken more than 100,000 images, and collected six samples of Martian rock and atmosphere that could eventually be brought to Earth for further study.

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2021 in Review: Highlights from NASA in Silicon Valley

Ingenuity Mars helicopter flies on the Red Planet. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU/MSSS)

MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. (NASA PR) — Join us as we look back at the highlights of 2021 at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley.

1) NASA’s water-hunting Moon rover, the Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover, made great strides this year. The VIPER team successfully completed practice runs of the full-scale assembly of the Artemis program’s lunar rover in VIPER’s new clean room. Two rounds of egress testing let rover drivers practice exiting the lander and rolling onto the rocky surface of the Moon. NASA also announced the landing site selected for the robotic rover, which will be delivered to the Nobile region of the Moon’s South Pole in late 2023 as part of the Commercial Lunar Payload Services initiative. NASA also chose eight new VIPER science team members and their proposals to expand and complement VIPER’s already existing science team and planned investigations. This year’s progress contributed to VIPER’s completion of its Critical Design Review, turning the mission’s focus toward construction of the rover beginning in late 2022.

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NASA’s 2021 Achievements Included Mars Landing, First Flight, Artemis, More

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — In 2021, NASA completed its busiest year of development yet in low-Earth orbit, made history on Mars, continued to make progress on its Artemis plans for the Moon, tested new technologies for a supersonic aircraft, finalized launch preparations for the next-generation space telescope, and much more – all while safely operating during a pandemic and welcoming new leadership under the Biden-Harris Administration.

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NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter Reaches a Total of 30 Minutes Aloft

Ingenuity sits on a slightly inclined surface with about 6-degree tilt at the center of the frame, just north of the southern ridge of “Séíitah” geologic unit. The Perseverance rover’s Mastcam-Z instrument took this image on Dec. 1, 2021, when the rotorcraft was about 970 feet (295 meters) away. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU/MSSS)

With its recent 17th flight, the Red Planet rotorcraft reaches an airborne milestone the team never considered achievable. Its 18th flight is scheduled for no earlier than today.

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — The 17th flight of NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter on Dec. 5 pushed the total flight time past the 30-minute mark. The 117-second sortie brought history’s first aircraft to operate from the surface of another world closer to its original airfield, “Wright Brothers Field,” where it will await the arrival of the agency’s Perseverance Mars rover, currently exploring “South Séítah” region of Mars’ Jezero Crater.

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Ingenuity Mars Helicopter Flight 17 – Discovering Limits

Topography Between Mars Helicopter and Rover for Flight 17: In this annotated image, Ingenuity’s flight path is depicted in yellow. Perseverance’s location is indicated in the upper left, with the blue line depicting its line of sight to the helicopter’s Flight 17 landing spot. The topographic map below it indicates the altitude of surface features between the rover and helicopter. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

by Teddy Tzanetos
Ingenuity Team Lead at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

December 9, 2021, Update: 

On Wednesday (Sol 285 in Perseverance’s mission on Mars) the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter relayed additional information on its status. The limited data that was received indicates power aboard the rotorcraft is excellent, which suggests it is in an upright stance, allowing its solar array to efficiently power its six lithium-ion batteries. However, the same line-of-sight issues the team believes impeded communications at the end of Flight 17 still prevented the majority of data packets (including imagery from the flight) to be relayed back to the rover – and then to Earth. The next opportunity for a data transfer is expected to occur sometime within the next several days.


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NASA’s Perseverance Captures Challenging Flight by Mars Helicopter

Video from the Mastcam-Z instrument aboard NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover captures a closeup view of the 13th flight of the agency’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter, on Sept. 4, 2021. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU/MSSS)

Recently downlinked imagery of a September flight has allowed the rover imaging team to put together a video of rotorcraft performing to near-perfection.

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — Video footage from NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover of the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter’s 13th flight on Sept. 4 provides the most detailed look yet of the rotorcraft in action.

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Ingenuity Helicopter Flight #15 – Start of the Return Journey on Mars

Perseverance’s First Road Trip: This annotated image of Mars’ Jezero Crater depicts the route NASA’s Perseverance rover is taking during its first science campaign – as well as its path to the location of its second science campaign. Ingenuity will be tasked with joining Perseverance along this journey, with the goal of reaching Jezero’s river delta. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona)

Written by Teddy Tzanetos
Ingenuity Team Lead at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

With conjunction over and our first flight at 2,700 RPM behind us, Ingenuity is ready to begin the journey back to the Wright Brothers Field at the Octavia E. Butler landing site, before venturing beyond. The above figure depicts the mission ahead of Ingenuity, which is to join Perseverance in the trek north along the east edge of Séítah, before traveling west to reach the Jezero ancient river delta.  To accomplish this feat, the Ingenuity team is planning a series of 4-7 flights to return to Wright Brothers Field. Along the way the project is considering preparing a flight software upgrade for our helicopter which will potentially enable new navigation capabilities onboard, and better prepare Ingenuity for the challenges ahead.

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Hear Sounds From Mars Captured by NASA’s Perseverance Rover

This illustration of NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover indicates the location of its two microphones. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Two microphones aboard the six-wheeled spacecraft add a new dimension to the way scientists and engineers explore the Red Planet.

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — Thanks to two microphones aboard NASA’s Perseverance rover, the mission has recorded nearly five hours of Martian wind gusts, rover wheels crunching over gravel, and motors whirring as the spacecraft moves its arm. These sounds allow scientists and engineers to experience the Red Planet in new ways – and everyone is invited to listen in.

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Flying on Mars Is Getting Harder and Harder

Mars Helicopter Sol 193 – Navigation Camera: NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter acquired this image using its navigation camera during its 13th flight on Sep. 5, 2021 (Sol 193 of the Perseverance rover mission) at the local mean solar time of 12:06:30. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Written by Håvard Grip
Ingenuity Mars Helicopter Chief Pilot
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

In the months since we flew for the first time, we have learned a great deal about operating a helicopter on Mars. We have explored Ingenuity’s strengths and limitations in detail, leveraging the former and working around the latter to operationalize it as a highly capable reconnaissance platform.

With the benefit of the knowledge acquired, conducting flights on Mars has in most ways become easier than it was at the outset. But in one important way it is actually getting more difficult every day: I’m talking about the atmospheric density, which was already extremely low and is now dropping further due to seasonal variations on Mars.

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NASA to Brief Early Science from Perseverance Mars Rover

Perseverance’s First Road Trip: This annotated image of Jezero Crater depicts the routes for Perseverance’s first science campaign (yellow hash marks) as well as its second (light-yellow hash marks). Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA will hold a virtual media briefing at 1 p.m. EDT Wednesday, July 21, to discuss early science results from the agency’s Perseverance Mars rover and its preparations to collect the first-ever Martian samples for planned return to Earth.

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Mars Flight 9 Was a Nail-Biter, but Ingenuity Came Through With Flying Colors

NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover took this image overlooking the “Séítah” region using its navigation camera. The agency’s Ingenuity helicopter flew over this region during its ninth flight, on July 5. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Written by Håvard F. Grip, Ingenuity Chief Pilot, and Ken Williford, Perseverance Deputy Project Scientist

PASADENA, Calif. — It has been a week of heightened apprehension on the Mars Helicopter team as we prepared a major flight challenge for Ingenuity. We uplinked instructions for the flight, which occurred Monday, July 5 at 2:03 am PT, and waited nervously for results to arrive from Mars later that morning. The mood in the ground control room was jubilant when we learned that Ingenuity was alive and well after completing a journey spanning 2,051 feet (625 meters) of challenging terrain.

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Launch 2020: U.S. Reclaimed Top Spot, Flew Astronauts Again from American Soil

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft is launched from Launch Complex 39A on NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station with NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley aboard, Saturday, May 30, 2020, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls & Joel Kowsky)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The United States reclaimed the top spot in launches from China last year as NASA astronauts flew into orbit from American soil for the first time in nearly nine years, SpaceX deployed the world’s first satellite mega-constellation with reused rockets, and two new launchers debuted with less than stellar results.

American companies conducted 44 launches in 2020, with 40 successes and four failures. Bryce Tech reports that U.S. companies accounted for 32 of the 41 commercial launches conducted last year. The majority of those flights were conducted by SpaceX, which launched 25 orbital missions.

China came in second with a record of 35 successful launches and four failures. The 39 launch attempts tied that nation’s previous record for flights during a calendar year.

Let’s take a closer look at what U.S. companies achieved last year.

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NASA’s Perseverance Rover Begins Its First Science Campaign on Mars

Mastcam-Z’s 360-degree View of “Van Zyl Overlook”: NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover used its Mastcam-Z imaging system to capture this 360-degree panorama of “Van Zyl Overlook,” where the rover was parked as the Ingenuity helicopter performed its first flights. The 2.4 billion-pixel panorama is made up of 992 individual images stitched together. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU/MSSS)

The six-wheeled scientist is heading south to explore Jezero Crater’s lakebed in search of signs of ancient microbial life.


PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — On June 1, NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover kicked off the science phase of its mission by leaving the “Octavia E. Butler” landing site. Until recently, the rover has been undergoing systems tests, or commissioning, and supporting the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter’s month of flight tests.

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Surviving an In-Flight Anomaly: What Happened on Ingenuity’s Sixth Flight

This image of Mars was taken from the height of 33 feet (10 meters) by NASA’s Ingenuity Mars helicopter during its sixth flight on May 22, 2021. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Written by Håvard Grip, Ingenuity Mars Helicopter Chief Pilot at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

On the 91st Martian day, or sol, of NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover mission, the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter performed its sixth flight. The flight was designed to expand the flight envelope and demonstrate aerial-imaging capabilities by taking stereo images of a region of interest to the west. Ingenuity was commanded to climb to an altitude of 33 feet (10 meters) before translating 492 feet (150 meters) to the southwest at a ground speed of 9 mph (4 meters per second). At that point, it was to translate 49 feet (15 meters) to the south while taking images toward the west, then fly another 164 feet (50 meters) northeast and land.

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Perseverance’s Robotic Arm Starts Conducting Science

NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover used its dual-camera Mastcam-Z imager to capture this image of “Santa Cruz,” a hill about 1.5 miles (2.5 kilometers) away from the rover, on April 29, 2021, the 68th Martian day, or sol, of the mission. The entire scene is inside of Mars’ Jezero Crater; the crater’s rim can be seen on the horizon line beyond the hill. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU/MSSS)

NASA’s newest Mars rover is beginning to study the floor of an ancient crater that once held a lake.

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA’s Perseverance rover has been busy serving as a communications base station for the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter and documenting the rotorcraft’s historic flights. But the rover has also been busy focusing its science instruments on rocks that lay on the floor of Jezero Crater.

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