The mission picked up the John L. “Jack”
The team behind NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter has been named the 2021 winner by John L. “Jack” Swigert, Jr. Award for Space Exploration from the Space Foundation.
The foundation’s goal is “Advocating for Innovation. Better life on earth. The annual award recognizes extraordinary achievements from a company, a space company or a consortium of organizations in space exploration and discovery. It honors the memory of astronaut John L. “Jack” Swigert, Jr., command module pilot for the Apollo 13 mission. During Apollo 13’s April 1970 voyage to the moon, an oxygen tank broke and put the crew in danger. It was a time of loud drama and great anxiety as people across the globe watched NASA work against the clock and against the odds of returning the crew safely to Earth.
The Ingenuity Mars Helicopter team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California faced many challenges on its way to achieving humanity’s first powered, controlled flight on another planet. The helicopter’s first test flight was full of unknowns. The red planet has an extremely thin atmosphere with only 1% pressure on the surface compared to our planet, while at the same time being home to significant gravity – a third of the Earth. On April 19, 2021, Ingenuity climbed to its prescribed maximum altitude of 3 meters and maintained a steady glide for 30 seconds before falling down again and becoming the first ever rotorcraft to fly on another planet.
Since then, the Mars Helicopter has flown a total of seven times and transitioned from being a technology demonstration to an operations demonstration designed to explore how antenna scouting and other features can benefit future explorations of Mars and other worlds.
The Space Foundation Award will be presented on August 23 during the opening ceremony of the 36th Space Springs Symposium.
Recent Swigert Award winners include the InSight-Mars Cube One joint project teams, the Dawn mission and the Cassini mission.
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Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.