Ingenuity made the first powered and controlled airplane flight over the surface of another planet.
NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter made a historic flight to Mars, marking the first aircraft to propel another planet.
“The altimeter data confirms that Ingenuity made its maiden flight, the first flight of a power plane to another planet,” said Return-to-Earth helicopter chief pilot Havard Grip, the voice breaking as his teammates burst into joy.
Flight controllers in California confirmed Ingenuity’s brief jump after receiving data via the Perseverance rover, which stood guard over 200 feet (65 meters).
Ingenuity hitchhiked to Mars on Perseverance, clinging to the rover’s belly as it arrived in a former river delta in February.
“Ingenuity has made its first flight – the first flight of a powered airplane on another planet!”
– NASA (@NASA) April 19, 2021
The $ 85 million helicopter demonstration was seen as a high risk, but a high reward.
“Each world has only one first flight,” noted project manager MiMi Aung earlier this month.
Speaking on a NASA webcast early Monday, she called it the “ultimate dream”.
Aung and his team had to wait more than three excruciating hours before they found out if the pre-programmed flight had succeeded at 287 million kilometers (178 million miles).
A software error that prevented the helicopter from taking off a week earlier added to their anxiety and forced engineers to scramble to find a solution.
Applause, cheers and laughter erupted in the operations center when success was finally declared.
Others followed when the first black-and-white photo of Ingenuity appeared on their screens, showing her shadow as it hovered above the surface of Mars.
Next are the stunning color images of the helicopter coming down to the surface, taken by Perseverance, “the best host little Ingenuity could hope for,” Aung said, thanking everyone.
You wouldn’t believe what I just saw.
– NASA’s Mars Rover Perseverance (@NASAPersevere) April 19, 2021