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NASA’s four-pound Ingenuity helicopter made history early Monday — becoming the first powered, controlled aircraft to fly on another planet.
Results rolled in shortly before 7 a.m., concluding that the experimental helicopter succeeded in its mission of rising 10 feet above the Martian surface, hovering in space for about 30 seconds and then rotating before gently landing on all four legs.
“We can now say that human beings have flown a rotorcraft on another planet,” Ingenuity project manager MiMi Aung said as the team of NASA scientists who worked on the $85 million demo erupted into cheers and claps.
“We have been talking so long about our Wright Brother moment on Mars, and here it is!”
She then encouraged the team to “enjoy this moment” before getting back to work.
Flight controllers in California received the data through the Perseverance rover, which stood watch more than 200 feet away. News of the success was delayed by three hours, as the team received information from 178 million miles away.
Ingenuity hitched a ride to the Red Planet on the belly of Perseverance, arriving in an ancient river delta in February.
The team broke into excited applause as the first black-and-white photo appeared on their screens, showing Ingenuity’s shadow as it hovered over the planet’s surface.
The next photos, taken by Perseverance, were in color — showing the helicopter descending back to the surface.
Now, the team plans for Ingenuity to take several additional, lengthier flights in the coming weeks — with a rest period of four to five days between each.
“Perseverance got us to Mars. With Ingenuity, we soar higher,” NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory tweeted. “The #MarsHelicopter made history today by being the first craft to achieve controlled, powered flight on a planet beyond Earth.”
With Post wires
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