NASA launches first controlled flight on another planet with Mars Helicopter
The helicopter hovered and rotated for about 30 seconds.
NASA has launched its first controlled flight on another planet today with the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter
In a post on Twitter, NASA said: "The #MarsHelicopter made history today by being the first craft to achieve controlled, powered flight on a planet beyond Earth."
The space agency had originally planned the flight for 11 April but postponed it over a software issue. The issue has since been resolved, and the drone completed the flight earlier today.
The helicopter travelled to Mars attached to the underside of the rover Perseverance, which arrived on the planet on 18 February to search for signs of extraterrestrial life.
Ingenuity's goal is to demonstrate that its technology works, and it will not contribute to Perseverance's scientific goals.
The flight attempt was challenging because the air on Mars is so thin at less than 1% of the pressure of Earth's atmosphere, making it much more difficult to achieve lift-off, even when helped by a gravitational pull that is a third of Earth's.
The helicopter rose for roughly six seconds, before hovering and rotating for about 30 seconds and going back down.
“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.
“The X-15 was a pathfinder for the space shuttle. Mars Pathfinder and it's Sojourner rover did the same for three generations of Mars rovers. 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.”