In what is being considered a major milestone in the world of science and technology, NASA’s experimental Mars helicopter has achieved the first-ever powered flight on another planet beyond Earth.
Video data shows the helicopter taking off a few feet from the ground, hovering in the air for about 20 to 30 seconds, and landing back on the dusty red surface of Mars. The US space agency had previously postponed the flight attempt after an issue was flagged during a high-speed test of the rotor blades.
The triumph was hailed by NASA after it received the video data of the same. “Altimeter data confirms that Ingenuity has performed its first flight, the first flight of a powered aircraft on another planet,” said the helicopter’s chief pilot back on Earth, Havard Grip, his voice breaking as his teammates erupted in cheers.
“A dream takes flight: The Ingenuity #MarsHelicopter has flown in the thin atmosphere of the Red Planet”, Tweeted NASA Mars celebrating the big achievement.
A dream takes flight: The Ingenuity #MarsHelicopter has flown in the thin atmosphere of the Red Planet.— NASA Mars (@NASAMars) April 19, 2021
More test flights are planned for the coming days. In the future, flying robotic scouts may join new rovers and even astronauts in their explorations. https://t.co/b4vJBvVP06 pic.twitter.com/5f3wCpLCQW
Ingenuity is a mini 4-pound (1.8 kg) robotic helicopter located on Mars since February 18, 2021. On Monday (April 19), the ultra-lightweight robot was scheduled to lift off at 07:30 GMT. According to reports, the first data revealing whether the chopper experiment worked started arriving back at Earth some three hours later. This information was relayed through Nasa’s Perseverance rover and a satellite at Mars that was beaming it to JPL.
After today’s success, Ingenuity becomes the first aircraft on Mars to successfully complete the first powered and fully controlled atmospheric flight, from vertical takeoff to landing, on any planet beyond Earth.
Today efforts mark the second time NASA poised to fly Ingenuity on Mars. The Mars helicopter’s first flight attempt on April 11 was delayed by a timing glitch in its systems, which mission engineers have addressed.
Now, after the successful take-off and landing of Ingenuity, the team will attempt additional experimental flights of incrementally farther distance and greater altitude.