NASA pulls off first Martian liftoff of ‘Ingenuity’ helicopter

Ingenuity performs first flight on Mars

As expected, Ingenuity, the diminutive helicopter the Perseverance rover flew to Mars completed a successful test flight from the Jezero Crater at 12:31 a.m. EDT and achineved an altitude of about 10 feet before touching down successfully 40 seconds later.

Though the first flight of Ingenuity only lasted only seconds and the flight was not particularly high by Earth standards, the monumental achievement of flying a powered aircraft on another planet - especially one with as thin of air and atmosphere as Mars - can not be understated.

But at precisely 3:34 a.m. ET on Monday, NASA successfully conducted a flight from the Martian surface, the first time a controlled, powered aircraft has done so on another planet.

Parked about 64.3 m (211 feet) away during Ingenuity's historic first flight, the Perseverance rover not only acted as a communications relay between the helicopter and Earth, but also chronicled the flight operations with its cameras.

Ingenuity quickly sent back a black-and-white image from its downward pointing navigation camera, showing its bug-like shadow cast on the surface. You're watching video of the #MarsHelicopter's first flight - a true "Wright brothers" moment.

The first powered flight on Earth was achieved by Orville and Wilbur Wright in 1903 in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. A small piece of fabric from the Wright Brothers' aircraft is carried on board Ingenuity.


Now, NASA will work on unpacking the data to glean more insights from the flight, and get back more photos and video of the helicopter during its ascent, hover and landing.

"We can say human beings have flown a rotorcraft on another planet", MiMi Aung, Ingenuity project manager at JPL, said after the success of the flight was announced. "We don't know exactly where Ingenuity will lead us, but today's results indicate the sky - at least on Mars - may not be the limit".

The helicopter, called Ingenuity, traveled almost 300 million miles to the red planet tucked inside the belly of the Perseverance rover.

Nasa hopes Ingenuity - a technology demonstration separate from Perseverance's primary mission to search for traces of ancient microorganisms - paves the way for aerial surveillance of Mars and other destinations in the solar system, such as Venus or Saturn's moon, Titan. While the project considered updating the flight software to correct the problem, they elected instead to adjust the timing of commands, concluding from testing that it would allow the helicopter to take off 85% of the time.

April has certainly become the month of Ingenuity on Mars.

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