NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter made spaceflight history when it lifted off from the Martian surface for the first time on Monday morning.
The Perseverance rover, which carried Ingenuity nearly 300 million miles to Mars, watched and filmed from a nearby overlook.
It saw the 4-pound space drone flew 10 feet high, hovered there for 30 seconds, and safely lowered itself back into the red Martian dust.
Shortly after receiving confirmation that Ingenuity had flown, NASA engineers downloaded the first images from Perseverance, which show the helicopter flying and landing.
Those two images are shown above.
Complete video of the flight should become available soon, possibly over the next few days. Ingenuity also beamed back its own photo from a black-and-white navigation camera on its belly, showing its shadow on the ground below.
The helicopter’s color camera should have also recorded video footage throughout its flight, though NASA has yet to receive it.
This was the first powered, controlled flight ever conducted on another planet. Now that NASA has shown the technology works, future space helicopters could explore canyons, caves, and rocky fields that are too dangerous for rovers. Mars drones could even do reconnaissance for future astronauts.
Before the flight, Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s associate administrator for science, told Insider that Ingenuity’s success would prove that NASA “can add an aerial dimension to discovery and exploration on Mars.”
“That aerial dimension, of course, opens up aspects of science and overall exploration that, frankly, at this moment in time are only our dreams,” he said.
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