NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter Succeeds in Historic First Flight

NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter took this shot while hovering over the Martian surface on April 19, 2021, during the first instance of powered, controlled flight on another planet. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter made history on 19th April 2021 as it became the first aircraft in history to make a powered, controlled flight on another planet.

The Ingenuity team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California confirmed the flight succeeded after receiving data from the helicopter through NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover.

The data received by altimeter confirmed that the helicopter rose to the prescribed maximum height of 10 feet (3 meters) and maintained a stable hover for 30 seconds. Subsequently, it took a turn, descended, and touched onto the Martian surface after remaining in flight for a period of 39.1 seconds.

This flight was a milestone in that it was the very first powered flight in the extremely thin atmosphere of Mars, which has only 1 per cent of the pressure at the surface when compared to Earth. This also means that there are fewer air molecules for Ingenuity to interact with to attain flight. Hence, the rotors of Ingenuity had to achieve around 2,500 revolutions per minute, roughly five times greater than helicopters achieve on Earth.

This flight demonstration was also autonomous – the 19.3-inch-tall Ingenuity was piloted by onboard guidance, navigation, and control systems running algorithms developed by the team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

“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 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 added.

This moment will be a landmark in the history of space exploration. Do you agree? Let us know your views in the comments section below.

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