Four RIT alumni worked on ‘Ingenuity,’ the first helicopter to fly on another planet

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NEW MEXICO, N.Y. (WROC) — NASA’s experimental helicopter Ingenuity rose into the thin air above the dusty red surface of Mars on Monday, achieving the first powered flight by an aircraft on another planet.

And, as always it seems, there’s a Rochester connection.

The triumph was hailed as a Wright brothers moment. The mini 4-pound (1.8-kilogram) copter even carried a bit of wing fabric from the Wright Flyer that made similar history at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, in 1903.

It was a brief hop — just 39 seconds and 10 feet (3 meters) — but accomplished all the major milestones.

Flight controllers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California declared success after receiving the data and images via the Perseverance rover. Ingenuity hitched a ride to Mars on Perseverance, clinging to the rover’s belly when it touched down in an ancient river delta in February.

Rochester Institute of Technology tweeted Tuesday that four alumni, all of whom work at SolAero Technologies in New Mexico:

  • Zac Bittner, Principal Engineer for SolAero (Microelectronic Engineering B.S., 2011, Materials Science M.S., 2011, Microsystem Engineering PhD (2019)
  • Nicholos Mackos, Director of Operations, Panel (Mechanical Engineering B.S., 2008)
  • Chelsea Mackos, Director of Operations, Solar Cells and CICs (Microelectronic Engineering B.S., 2009, Material Science M.S., 2011)
  • Joseph Hunt, Senior Quality Engineer (Chemical Engineering B.S., 2019)

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