NASA launched the Perseverance rover carrying the small Ingenuity helicopter to Mars last year on July 30. The rover landed on the 28-mile-wide Jezero Crater six months later on February 18. Astrobiologists believe the crater was once filled with water. The rover and helicopter are tasked with a couple of scientific research objectives, including to study Mars’ habitability, seek signs of ancient life, as well as analyze the planet's climate. On Monday morning, NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter made history as it became the first vehicle to perform a flight on Mars. “The Ingenuity team at the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California confirmed the flight succeeded after receiving data from the helicopter via NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover at 6:46 a.m. EDT,” NASA stated. The agency shared high-definition footage of Ingenuity’s flight, video linked below.
It happened. Today our #MarsHelicopter proved that powered, controlled flight from the surface of another planet is possible. It takes a little ingenuity, perseverance, and spirit to make that opportunity a reality: https://t.co/oT3rrBm6wj pic.twitter.com/u63GKshp0G— NASA (@NASA) April 19, 2021
The 19-inch-tall vehicle, soared above the Red Planet’s soil about 10 feet, hovered in place, made a 96-degree turn, and slowly touched back down. The autonomous flight lasted 39.1 seconds powered by small solar panels and eight lithium-ion batteries. Ingenuity’s two carbon-fiber rotors span 4-feet from tip to tip, generated around 2,500 rotations per minute to liftoff from the ground, which is five times the speed of a normal helicopter rotor on Earth. The Martian surface has lower gravity, one-third of Earth’s, and an extremely thin atmosphere with only 1% the pressure at the surface compared to our home planet. “A lot of people thought it was not possible to fly at Mars… There is so little air,” said MiMi Aung, the project manager of Ingenuity at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Even though Ingenuity just hovered in the air for a around 30 seconds, the successful flight test opened a new chapter for space exploration because it proved that it is possible to fly a vehicle on the Red Planet. “It boggles your mind… flying for the first time in history a helicopter on Mars,” said NASA Associate Administrator for Science Thomas Zurbuchen.
Perseverance got us to Mars. With Ingenuity, we soar higher.— NASA JPL (@NASAJPL) April 19, 2021
The #MarsHelicopter made history today by being the first craft to achieve controlled, powered flight on a planet beyond Earth.
“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,” Zurbuchen announced. “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. As an homage to the two innovative bicycle makers from Dayton, this first of many airfields on other worlds will now be known as Wright Brothers Field, in recognition of the ingenuity and innovation that continue to propel exploration,” he said. Now the Ingenuity team is planning a second flight, which will be one of five flights planned over the course of 31-days. Ingenuity features cameras to snap aerial photographs of Mars. Perseverance rover will only be used by Ingenuity as a communication relay to Earth for a month before it drives off to explore the Martian terrain.
“We have been thinking for so long about having our Wright brothers moment on Mars, and here it is,” Aung said, “We will take a moment to celebrate our success and then take a cue from Orville and Wilbur regarding what to do next. History shows they got back to work – to learn as much as they could about their new aircraft – and so will we.”
WATCH NASA'S INGENUITY HELICOPTER FIRST FLIGHT ON MARS!
All Images Source: NASA
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About the Author
Evelyn J. Arevalo joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover news as a Space Journalist and SpaceX Starbase Texas Correspondent. Evelyn is specialized in rocketry and space exploration. The main topics she covers are SpaceX and NASA.