Giant flight for mankind: NASA`s Ingenuity helicopter flies successfully over Mars

Katie Ramirez
April 19, 2021

NASA is about to find out whether its Mars helicopter successfully flew its first flight - a feat that could revolutionize spaceflight. The two brothers famously achieved the first controlled powered flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina on December 17, 1903.

"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.

"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".

While Mars possesses much less gravity to overcome than Earth, its atmosphere is just one per cent as dense, presenting a special challenge for aerodynamic lift.

More followed when the first black and white photo from Ingenuity appeared on their screens, showing its shadow as it hovered above the surface of Mars.

A snippet of color video footage captured by a separate camera mounted on NASA's Mars rover Perseverance, parked about 200 feet away, showed the helicopter in flight against the orange-colored landscape surrounding it.

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"The Perseverance rover will provide support during flight operations, taking images, collecting environmental data, and hosting the base station that enables the helicopter to communicate with mission controllers on Earth", the agency said in a statement.

There, it hovered for up to 30 seconds and then descended to a landing.

NASA's Ingenuity helicopter is expected to rise into the Martian skies today at 03:30 am EDT, with data about its adventure arriving here on Earth a few hours later, transmitted in a livestream for all of us to watch.

On April 4, the helicopter "touched down" in the Jezero Crater by traveling the last 10 centimeters (4 in) from the underside of the rover to the Martian sands; Perseverance subsequently drove clear of the aircraft to give it space to maneuver, leaving Ingenuity to autonomously charge itself with an onboard solar panel.

Preparations for flight began on 3 April when Ingenuity was released from the belly of the Perseverance rover.

Ingenuity is a technology demonstration that NASA argues could be used on future missions to provide a third dimension for exploration of Mars. Additional flights could be added as part of an extended mission.

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