A NASA Mars experimental helicopter took off from the dusty red surface of Mars on Monday to complete its first powered and controlled flight over another planet.
The victory has been compared to the achievement of the Wright brothers. In fact, the tiny 4-pound device, called Ingenuity, carried a piece of wing fabric from Wright’s plane that made history in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina in 1903.
“The altimeter data confirms that Ingenuity has made its maiden flight, the first flight of a powered aircraft to another planet,” said chief pilot of the helicopter, Havard Grib, whose voice broke down as his comrades erupted in chants.
California flight controllers confirmed Ingenuity’s short flight after receiving data from the Perseverance vehicle, which was parked more than 65 meters (200 feet) away. Creativity traveled to Mars with perseverance, attached to the underside of the spacecraft upon its arrival in the ancient river delta last February.
The $ 85 million prototype was seen as a high-stakes project but with significant profit potential.
“Every scientist has only one first voyage,” Aung said this month. Speaking early Monday on NASA Radio, he described it as “the ultimate dream.”
Ong and his team had to wait over three appalling hours before knowing if the pre-scheduled flight had succeeded at 287 million kilometers (178 million miles). In addition to his concern, a software bug prevented the helicopter from taking off the previous week, forcing engineers to search for a solution.
The operations center erupted with applause, cheers and laughter when success was finally declared. There was more when the first black and white image of creativity appeared on their screens, showing its shadow as it flew over the surface of Mars. Then came the amazing colorful pictures of the helicopter descending back to the surface, captured by perseverance, “The best host a little creativity could ever dream of,” said Ong, thanking everyone.
NASA had planned a 40-second flight, and although there were few details at first, the plane achieved all of its goals: start-up, take-off, flight, descent, and landing.