The Ingenuity Mars Helicopter becomes the first aircraft in history to make a powered, controlled flight on another planet, after a successful test flight on Monday.
The news was confirmed by NASA’s Perseverance Mars Rover to the team behind the project at the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. The Ingenuity team received the data at 6:46 a.m. EDT.
“We don’t know exactly where Ingenuity will lead us, but today’s results indicate the sky — at least on Mars — may not be the limit,” acting NASA Administrator Steve Jurczyk stated.
Most impressively, the flight demonstration was autonomous and the 4-pound helicopter was piloted using onboard systems and algorithms developed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The Mars airfield where the flight took place was named Wright Brothers Field.
“Now, 117 years after the Wright brothers succeeded in making the first flight on our planet, NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter has succeeded in performing this amazing feat on another world,” said NASA Associate Administrator for Science Thomas Zurbuchen.”
The planet has only one-third the gravity of Earth and an extremely thin atmosphere, making flying an aircraft an especially challenging task, which is why the Ingenuity Helicopter’s flight marked a huge step towards better understanding the Red Planet and its conditions.