NASA confirms landmark achievement of first Mars helicopter flight

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The landmark first flight of a powered aircraft on another earth, the Mars helicopter Ingenuity, was verified by NASA on Monday.

During a live stream, engineers applauded and clapped as data verifying the flight arrived from the distant planet at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

According to Hvard Grip, Ingenuity pilot, the helicopter conducted “spinup, takeoff, climb, hover, landing and spin down,” The flight took place at 3:30 a.m. EDT.

“We can now say that we have performed a successful flight on another planet,” said MiMi Aung, project manager for the helicopter.

Images from the aircraft revealed the helicopter’s shadow on the surface whilst in space, while video from the Perseverance rover’s camera revealed the aircraft hovering.

For around 30 seconds, the 4-pound solar-powered helicopter soared 10 feet over the top of Jezero Crater to demonstrate flight capabilities in the thin Martian air.

NASA plans to release additional data and photographs, including footage of the Perseverance rover’s takeoff, at 1 p.m. EDT.

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According to Aung, NASA worked around a glitch with a timer on Ingenuity that postponed a previous flight attempt on April 9.

On February 18, the rover and helicopter landed on Mars, and on April 4, the rover freed the helicopter from its underside. NASA has already scheduled 30 days of testing of Ingenuity, a $80 million technology showcase.

NASA now intends to fly higher and faster, testing the boundaries of Ingenuity’s architecture and potentially resulting in a crash landing. NASA officials have stated that if the tests are successful, more aircraft will be sent to Mars on future missions.

For contact with Earth, Ingenuity is absolutely reliant on Perseverance. NASA intends to abandon the helicopter in order to enable the rover to focus on its primary mission: drilling rock samples that could provide evidence of past life on Mars.

The twin rotors of Ingenuity are 4 foot long and made of lightweight carbon fibre composite. To deal with the thin air on Mars, they spin at 2,500 revolutions per minute, compared to 400 to 500 revolutions per minute for helicopters on Earth.

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