Ingenuity accomplished the first powered, operated aircraft over another planet’s surface.
NASA‘s Ingenuity helicopter made a pioneering Mars flight, marking another planet’s first powered aircraft.
“Altimeter data confirms Ingenuity’s first flight, the first flight of a powered aircraft on another planet,” said Havard Grip, chief pilot of the helicopter back on Earth, his voice cracking as his teammates erupted in cheers.
California flight controllers verified Ingenuity’s brief hop after receiving data from the Perseverance rover, which stood over 200 feet (65 meters) away.
Ingenuity hitched a ride to Mars on Perseverance, sticking to the rover’s belly upon landing in February in an ancient river delta.
The $85m demo helicopter was considered a high-risk, but high reward.
“The world gets one first flight,” project manager MiMi Aung noted earlier this month.
Speaking on a NASA webcast early Monday, she called it “the last dream.”
Aung and her team had to wait more than three awful hours before discovering whether the pre-programmed flight was 287 million kilometres (178 million miles) away.
Adding to their anxiety was a software error that stopped the helicopter from lifting off a week ago, with engineers struggling to find a patch.
In the operations centre, applause, cheering and laughter erupted as the performance was eventually announced.
More followed when Ingenuity’s first black and white photo appeared on their screens, showing the shadow floating above Mars’ surface.
Next came the helicopter’s beautiful colour pictures coming down to the earth, taken by Perseverance, “the greatest little host could ever hope for,” Aung said, thanking everyone.
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