Sunday, November 21, 2021

NASA's Mars helicopter Ingenuity, originally expected to make five flights during 30 days on the Red Planet, has outlasted all projections for the length of its mission, which now is nearing seven months and a 16th flight.


The helicopter's longevity is even more remarkable because many of its parts are commercially available, or "off the shelf," components for Earth-based drones or computers, Teddy Tzanetos, the NASA Ingenuity team lead, said in an interview.

"Any flight could be our last, frankly," Tzanetos said. "So it won't be a surprise to us if and when we see some of its parts fail. But that could be a fantastic discovery ... a new data point for us to understand flight on another planet."

One of Ingenuity's off-the-shelf parts is an altimeter from Boulder, Colo.-based SparkFun Electronics, which is a device that measures altitude.


  1. The dirty little secret of MilSpec and "Class S" (space rated) electronics is that the parts are made on the same lines from the same raw materials, and for semiconductor "chips" they're literally made side by side on the same silicon wafer. The difference between the plain commercial parts and the expensive parts is paying for the testing to verify they meet the specs over the temperature range.

    Careful reading of the specs usually shows that the specs are worse for the MilSpec or Space parts. That's because all parts vary over temperature and the wider temperature ranges for the expensive parts means they're going to vary more.

  2. Replies
    1. I'll believe it when they start eviscerating cows.

  3. " altimeter... is a device that measures altitude"

    Who knew!

    1. All this time I thought it was "this thing in the stock which tells time".