NASA made history on Monday with the first controlled flight on Mars.
The Ingenuity team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California confirmed that the small Mars helicopter had successfully taken off, hovered in the air and landed back down in the Jezero Crater via data sent back by the Perseverance rover.
The flight period was close to 40 seconds, during which time the craft reached a maximum altitude of three meters (10 feet) before coming down to land, NASA said.
“Now, 117 years after the Wright brothers succeeded in making the first flight on our planet, NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter has succeeded in performing this amazing feat on another world,” NASA Associate Administrator for Science Thomas Zurbuchen said, adding that “this first of many airfields on other worlds” would be named the Wright Brothers Field in their honor.
“While these two iconic moments in aviation history may be separated by time and 173 million miles of space, they now will forever be linked.”
A camera on the helicopter snapped a picture of its own shadow on the ground as it hovered above the planet’s surface while the Perseverance rover, which was several meters away, recorded a video of the operation, sharing it to Twitter with the caption “you won’t believe what I just saw.”
The gravitational strength on Mars is about a third of that on planet Earth and the thin atmosphere means there are fewer air particles for the craft’s two rotors to generate thrust.
The solar-powered helicopter hitched a ride to Mars on the Perseverance rover.
After the historic flight, MiMi Aung, Ingenuity Project Manager, said: “Our team has been working on the Mars helicopter for over six years, for some even longer, towards this ultimate dream of experimenting the first flight on Mars. Here we are!”EFE