NASA has made history after it completed the first ever powered, controlled flight today, confirming its Ingenuity helicopter had successfully taken flight on Mars.
The helicopter, which landed on the Red Planet along with the Perseverance Rover on 18 February, was expected to make a 40-second first flight.
MiMi Aung, Ingenuity Mars Helicopter Project Manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory said: “We can now say that human beings have flown a rotorcraft on another planet.”
Atmospheric pressure there is very low, about 1% of atmospheric pressure on Earth.
“The first and foremost challenge is to make a vehicle that’s light enough to be lifted, and then second is to generate lift, the rotors, the rotor system has to spin very fast,” said Aung.
The attempt was touted as a “Wright brothers’ moment,” the first powered, controlled flight on another planet.
“When the Wright brothers flew for the first time, they didn’t fly a fully-equipped passenger airplane, they flew an experimental aircraft to show that it’s possible to do powered flights,” said Ingenuity chief pilot Havard Grip.
The 1.8kg helicopter was to attempt to rise 3 metres into the air on its first flight, followed by up to five increasingly higher and longer flights over the course of a month.