NASA just made aviation history. Agency has Confirmed The Ingenuity Mars helicopter completed its initial test flight, making it the first aircraft to fly on another planet. The machine climbed to a height of 10 feet at 3:34 AM Eastern, hovering in place for 30 seconds before touching the Marshall surface. More details (not to mention better imagery) are expected soon.
The area will now be known as Wright Brothers Field in tribute to the pioneers of Earth-powered flight.
There was no sense of autonomous flight. Mars’ gravity is about a third of Earth’s, and a very thin atmosphere provides just 1 percent of our planet’s surface-level pressure. The basic rules of flight vary, in other words, and for the first time Ingenuity is testing multiple components. The helicopter is powered by solar energy, so the mission crew had to give the launch time for the optimal amount of energy.
The flight also represented a victory over technical obstacles. NASA originally intended to fly Ingenuity on April 11, but delayed the flight to fix a software problem with its command sequence.
You may not have to wait long for the next flight. NASA hopes for a second flight on April 22. This should be another minor test, but the administration will decide how to “best expand the flight profile.” Ingenuity can fly at a distance of 160 feet from a strongly rover for a duration of up to 90 seconds.
The helicopter will not accomplish much by itself – this is primarily a proof of concept. This success suggests that flight to Mars is possible, and it opens the door to future aircraft that can scout planets in a way that no rover can possibly manage.
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