The new NASA video Things are really looking up (on Mars) is a short set of vignettes in anticipation of the Ingenuity helicopter's first tests on Mars.

Below is a screenshot of a historical file photo of a vertical flier demonstration vehicle.

Question: Can someone identify this Mars helicopter prototype and when and where it was built and tested?

The image shows a vertical cylinder as tall as a person and perhaps 30 cm in diameter. From the top extends a motor and shaft on which four large but light-weight props extend in a helicopter fashion.

Mars Rotor Hover Test screenshot from Things are really looking up (on Mars)


1 Answer 1


Computational Analysis of a Prototype Martian Rotorcraft Experiment, by folks from Pennsylvania State University and Ames Research Center. The linked version of the paper was published in 2002, but ResearchGate have a copy (that I haven't read) from late 2001.

The prototype Mars rotor is currently being tested at NASA Ames Research Center

and a description of the original photo, if anyone was interested.

Figure 2 shows the Mars rotor hover test stand. Notable features include the low aspect ratio blades and the 40% root cut out to accommodate blade folding and telescoping in transport and deployment. Also, the experimental and computational studies model an isolated rotor only, while the actual design will consist of two coaxial rotors.

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    $\begingroup$ Good point - it's not a prototype of the helicopter, just a test of the rotor. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 23, 2021 at 13:29

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