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NASA calls its helicopter on Mars a spacecraft (status update, 2022 Jan 19). Why?

Sure, Ingenuity is off Earth and it's mobile. But it can't toodle off to Phobos. It's in the same category as rovers, hoppers, etc., which also can't travel through space, but only get delivered through space to a destination.

(Other status updates have called it a rotorcraft; also called Perseverance a spacecraft(!); mentioned spacecraft on Mars; and just once called it an aircraft).

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    $\begingroup$ Why not all three? The rotor-space-air-craft! $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 10, 2022 at 18:33
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    $\begingroup$ Well, it flies in a (medium) vacuum. ;) $\endgroup$
    – PM 2Ring
    Commented Feb 10, 2022 at 18:39
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    $\begingroup$ It can't fly in a vacuum as other spacecrafts can do. $\endgroup$
    – Uwe
    Commented Feb 10, 2022 at 19:06
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    $\begingroup$ The internet has once again fulfilled its main purpose: an argument about definitions. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 10, 2022 at 21:35

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The definition of spacecraft is: a vehicle or device designed for travel or operation outside the Earth's atmosphere.

So yes, Ingenuity is a spacecraft.

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    $\begingroup$ A hundred years from now when a Mars colonist take's their scooter down the road to pick up a loaf of bread it will no longer be thought of as a spacecraft, but until that time I think that this is probably going to continue to be the prevailing terminology. $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Commented Feb 10, 2022 at 19:35
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    $\begingroup$ The [Oxford Dictionary](lexico.com/definition/spacecraft_ has a more restricted/specific definition: A vehicle used for traveling in space. Wikipedia lists Ingenuity as a rotocraft & a spacecraft as a"vehicle or machine designed to fly in outer space". ... $\endgroup$
    – Fred
    Commented Feb 10, 2022 at 22:13
  • $\begingroup$ ... Other definitions include: A vehicle designed to be launched into space., a vehicle capable of traveling in or into outer space; at present, all such vehicles are powered by rocket engine, A vehicle that travels through space, a craft capable of traveling in outer space; technically, a satellite around the sun. $\endgroup$
    – Fred
    Commented Feb 10, 2022 at 22:13
  • $\begingroup$ Merriam-Webster's "For travel or operation" implies that it needn't even be able to move. That casts the net wide enough to include the Apollo astronauts' shovels and rock collecting bags. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 11, 2022 at 23:35

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