NASA Succeeds With Powered Flight on Mars

The Ingenuity Mars helicopter became the first vehicle to ever fly on the surface of the red planet, confirmed at 6:46 A.M. EST by scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

“Ingenuity is the latest in a long and storied tradition of NASA projects achieving a space exploration goal once thought impossible,” said acting NASA Administrator Steve Jurczyk in a press release. 

Jurczyk noted the importance their first rovers on Mars and the advances they lead to, adding that “todays results indicate the sky-at least on Mars-may not be the limit”.

The Ingenuity helicopter weighs only 4 pounds and measures only 19 inches tall. It contains no scientific instruments inside to record phenomena. Its purpose, according to NASA, is strictly to test the possibility of exploring Mars from the air.

Pilots cannot fly the helicopter manually, due to the severe delay between transmission on Earth and the craft receiving the instructions on Mars. Instead, pilots have to upload a preprogrammed flight plan to the craft, then wait until it finishes the test to determine the results. NASA was unsure whether the craft would fly at all due to the thin air density on Mars.

The Perseverance rover recorded the historic flight using cameras mounted on its chassis, and was the primary method of transport for the mini-helicopter before it began running on its own solar power. 

The next flight for the Ingenuity is scheduled for April 22, with future flights and initiatives planned should the second test prove successful.  

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