How NASA and the open source community helped a helicopter achieve lift-off on Mars

Ingenuity's First Black-and-White Image From the Air
Ingenuity’s First Black-and-White Image From the Air (Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

GitHub has a great write-up of how open source community contributions played a key role in helping NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter achieve lift-off on Mars.

From GitHub’s The README Project:

The team that built Ingenuity is much bigger than JPL’s 6,000 employees. Behind the 4-lb helicopter were contractors from recognizable companies like AeroVironment, Lockheed Martin, and Qualcomm. And behind its expansive software were thousands of open source developers around the world, unaware of the gravity of their contributions.

The Ingenuity helicopter runs an embedded Linux distribution on its navigation computer. Much of its software is written in C++ using JPL’s open source flight control framework F Prime (F´). Meanwhile, the Python ecosystem played a key role in everything from ground control to flight modeling to data processing.

Nearly 12,000 people contributed code, documentation, graphic design, and more to the open source software that made Ingenuity’s launch possible.

GitHub worked with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory to create a Mars 2020 Helicopter Mission badge for display on developer profiles who contributed to the effort.

More on the historic achievement at the NASA website.

About Luke Fretwell

Luke Fretwell is the founder of GovFresh, co-founder/CEO of ProudCity and co-host of the podcast, The Government We Need. Connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn or email at


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