Chief Engineer for Mars helicopter to speak at Wright Brothers National Memorial

A pair of zoomable cameras aboard NASA's Perseverance Mars rover captured this image of the Ingenuity helicopter on April 19, 2021. [NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU]

Wright Brothers National Memorial is proud to welcome Dr. J. “Bob” Balaram, of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, to help celebrate National Aviation Day on Aug. 19 and 20, 2022.

Dr. Balaram is the originator of the concept that became NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter, and served as its chief engineer during its development, test and operations.

The Ingenuity Mars Helicopter took its first flight on Mars on April 19, 2021, marking the first powered flight on another planet. Described as a “Wright Brothers Moment,” this first flight marks the continuation of aviation achievements in the legacy of Wilbur and Orville Wright’s first powered flight in 1903.

At this year’s National Aviation Day event at Wright Brothers National Memorial, Dr. Balaram will present a series of public talks that explore the connections between the Wright Brothers and the Mars Ingenuity Project. Following Dr. Balaram’s presentations, a team from AeroVironment, Inc, the developers of Ingenuity’s rotor system, landing gear and fuselage structure, will demonstrate a working, flying model of Mars Ingenuity in the visitor center’s Flight Room. Throughout the week, the visitor center will host temporary exhibit panels designed in conjunction with NASA highlighting the parallels between the first flights on earth and Mars.

Dr. Balaram’s presentations will take place at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Aug. 19 (fee-free day) and 20. Additionally, a special evening program is scheduled for 8 p.m. Aug. 19.