The Ingenuity dream began in the 1990s when robot technologist Bob Balaram from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory heard about Ilan Kroo, professor of aerospace at Stanford University, at a conference about a “mesicopter,” or miniature aircraft for the earth spoke.
Balaram could imagine it on Mars.
He suggested one for NASA during a call for submissions, but it was not selected for funding. The Mars helicopter would sit on the shelf for 15 years while Balaram worked on other Mars missions.
The time of Ingenuity came in 2013 when Charles Elachi, then director of JPL, attended a presentation on drones and helicopters and returned to the lab and asked if you could fly on Mars. Balaram took back his original proposal and developed the first concept.
It’s been a long seven years of designing, building, and testing, with one technical crisis or challenge popping up every week. The rigorous work that went into Ingenuity’s design and testing made the helicopter possible.
The team brought people from specific disciplines together, but everyone was thinking outside the box to help each other work on the components of the helicopter.
“On behalf of all of us at NASA Science, I just wanted to say how proud we are of you and how important you are to this special achievement,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, Associate Administrator, NASA Science Mission Directorate.
“The history of this team is compelling,” he added.
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