“NASA’s miniature robot helicopter ingenuity performed a successful takeoff and landing on Mars early on Monday, achieving the first powered, controlled flight by an aircraft over the surface of another planet,” said the US space agency.
The twin-rotor whirligig’s debut on Mars marked a 21st century Wright Brothers moment for NASA. NASA says this success could pave way for new modes of exploration on Mars and other destinations in the solar system.
The 4-pound (1.8 kg) solar-powered helicopter performed its maiden 39-second flight as planned three hours earlier, bringing joy to mission managers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
According to NASA, altimeter readings from the rotorcraft showed; it became airborne at 3:34a.m, climbed to a height of 10 feet as programmed, hovered steadily over the Martian surface for half a minute, and touched down safely on its four legs.
“We can now say that human beings have flown an aircraft on another planet,” said MiMi Aung, Ingenuity project manager at JPL.
NASA compared the achievement to the Wright Brothers’ first controlled flight of their motor-driven airplane near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, in December 1903. (A takeoff and landing that covered 120 feet in 12 seconds)
“Ingenuity is the latest in a long and storied tradition of NASA projects achieving a space exploration goal once thought impossible. Today’s results indicate the sky – a least on Mars – may not be the limit,” said Steve Jurczyk, acting NASA chief.
The rotorcraft was taken to Mars tied to the belly of the Mars Rover Perseverance, which touched down in Jezero Crater on Feb 18th after a nearly seven-month journey through space.
With this success, NASA plans to send the rotorcraft on several additional, progressively more ambitious flights in the weeks ahead.