“One small step for man,” one giant takeoff for aircraft on other planets.
The four-pound helicopter’s flight, which spanned less than a minute, included a 10-foot raise off the ground, where it then hovered, took a photo, and safely returned to Mars’s surface. Live coverage of the flight started at around 6:15 a.m. ET.
“We can now say that human beings have flown a rotorcraft on another planet,” MiMi Aung, Ingenuity project manager at JPL, said. “We’ve been talking about our Wright Brothers moment on another planet for so long. And now, here it is.”
The airfield where the Ingenuity took off and landed was named Wright Brothers Field after Orville and Wilbur Wright, who are credited with creating the first successfully motor-operated airplane, Dr. Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, said.
“Mars is hard not only when you land, but when you try to take off from it and fly around, too,” Aung said. “It has significantly less gravity, but less than 1% the pressure of our atmosphere at its surface. Put those things together, and you have a vehicle that demands every input be right.”
Up to five flights are planned for the helicopter, and the team has until May to complete them, according to the Associated Press.
Monday’s mission was delayed a week after a command-sequence issue was uncovered during pre-takeoff checks.