Historic NASA Mars landing – ‘fleet of Martian drones in decades to come’
A helicopter has made the first-ever flight on another planet, NASA has said.
The Ingenuity mini-helicopter hovered 10ft in the air above Mars, before touching back down on the red planet’s surface, the space agency said.
It’s NASA’s first-ever attempt at a powered, controlled flight on another planet.
MiMi Aung – Ingenuity Mars Helicopter – project manager said: “We can now say that human beings have flown a rotorcraft on another planet.”
She added: “We’ve been talking for so long about our Wright brothers (the inventors of the world’s first aeroplane) moment. And here it is.”
Flight data was available on Earth just a few hours after the test.
The mini-helicopter Ingenuity works autonomously. It cannot be controlled by NASA due to the distance between Earth and Mars.
NASA said the craft hit all its targets: spin-up, takeoff, hover, descent and landing.
The craft is just 50cm tall, weighing in at 1.8kg on Earth and cost $85 million.
Ingenuity first arrived at the planet’s Jezero Crater on 18 February after an eight-month journey spanning nearly 300 million miles, tucked inside the Perseverance rover.
After the spacecraft landed, it dropped the drone onto the ground so Ingenuity could prepare for its maiden flight.
Ingenuity survived the “bone-chilling temperatures” of the red planet, with “nights as cold as minus 90C” and extreme winds, NASA said ahead of the flight.
Ingenuity will attempt additional experimental flights, travelling further distances and at increasing altitudes.
All together the helicopter will aim for up to five test flights within 30 Martian days (31 Earth days).
If successful, the demo could lead the way to a fleet of drones for Mars in decades to come.
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