NASA has made history Monday with its Mars Ingenuity helicopter completing the first-ever powered, controlled flight on a planet outside of earth.
The Ingenuity team, based at the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, confirmed the aircraft had landed successfully and was receiving data via NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover at 6:46 a.m ET, according to a statement by NASA.
“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 its 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.”
The solar-powered helicopter took off at 3:34 a.m. ET and logged a 40-second flight while reaching a maximum altitude of 10 feet hovering about the surface of Mars. An $85 million beta project that will provide researchers with more detailed data on the planet’s atmospheric conditions.
NASA Associate Administrator for Science Thomas Zurbuchen provided the name of the airfield on which the flight took place, and it has significant ties to North Carolina.
“Now, 117 years after the Wright brothers succeeded in making the first flight on our planet, NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter has succeeded in performing this amazing feat on another world,” Zurbuchen said.
“While these two iconic moments in aviation history may be separated by time and 173 million miles of space, they now will forever be linked. As an homage to the two innovative bicycle makers from Dayton (Ohio), this first of many airfields on other worlds will now be known as Wright Brothers Field, in recognition of the ingenuity and innovation that continue to propel exploration.”
NASA researchers will use the Mars Ingenuity helicopter to study a number of different factors on the desert red planet over the next three days. The agency is planning a second test flight no earlier than April 22.
If that run is also successful, NASA’s Ingenuity team will consider how to expand the flight’s capabilities.