NASA helicopter breaks records with flight on Mars

NASA helicopter breaks records with flight on Mars

NASA has made history today, conducting the very first powered flight on another planet.

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.

The proof-of-concept flight was performed by the little helicopter called Ingenuity, which hitched a ride to the red planet with the Perseverance rover, landing earlier this year.

A black-and-white photo taken by a downward-pointing onboard camera while the helicopter was aloft showed the distinct shadow cast by Ingenuity in the Martian sunlight onto the ground just below it.

"It will be truly a Wright brothers moment but on another planet", MiMi Aung, the project manager for the helicopter team, said in a briefing before the rover landed.

The first powered flight on Earth was achieved by the Wright brothers in 1903 in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.

NASA named Ingenuity's Martian airfield used by Ingenuity the Wright Brothers Field after Orville and Wilbur Wright. As the atmosphere on Mars is just 1 percent of the density of Earth's atmosphere, Ingenuity has disproportionately large rotor blades for its tiny body, and will have to spin them at a dizzying 2,500 rotations per minute.

As reported by the BBC, confirmation of the drone's successful flight was transmitted via satellite which is orbiting Mars and relayed back to Earth. Flight controllers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory received data confirming the successful flight at 3:46 AM PDT (10:46 UTC).

Nasa also expects to receive images and video of the flight that mission engineers hope to capture using cameras mounted on the helicopter and the Perseverance rover, which will be parked 76m away from Ingenuity's flight zone.

The historic moment occurred at 03:30 EDT (07:30 UTC) though data and images, beamed from the Mars Perseverance rover to NASA's Deep Space Network (DSN), took approximately four hours to reach mission control in their entirety.

Ingenuity's goal, by contrast, is to demonstrate its technology works, and it won't contribute to Perseverance's science goals.

Typing "Ingenuity NASA" into Google's search bar returns the usual info card containing all sorts of information about the Mars helicopter.

After the announcement, Aung was jubilant as she ripped up the papers holding the plan in case the flight had failed.

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