The news: NASA has flown an airplane on one other planet for the first time. On Monday, April 19, Ingenuity, a 1.8-kilogram drone helicopter, took off from the flooring of Mars, flew up about three meters, then swiveled and hovered for 40 seconds. The historical 2d was as soon as livestreamed on YouTube, and Ingenuity captured the photo above with regarded as one of its two cameras. “We are in a position to now inform that human beings agree with flown a rotorcraft on one other planet,” acknowledged MiMi Aung, the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter mission manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, at a press conference. “We, collectively, flew at Mars, and we, collectively, now agree with our Wright brothers 2d,” she added, referring to the first powered airplane flight on Earth in 1903.
If truth be told, Ingenuity carries a tribute to that eminent flight: a postage-imprint-size fragment of field subject from the Wright brothers’ airplane tucked beneath its solar panel. (The Apollo crew also took a splinter of wood from the Wright Flyer, as it was as soon as named, to the moon in 1969.)
The principle points: The flight was as soon as a important technical bellow, thanks to Mars’s bone-chilling temperatures (nights can drop down to -130 °F/-90 °C) and its extremely thin atmosphere—upright 1% the density of Earth’s. That meant Ingenuity needed to be mild, with rotor blades that were better and faster than would be needed to provide liftoff on Earth (even supposing the gravity on Mars, which is finest about one-third of Earth’s, labored in its make a selection). The flight had at the origin been scheduled to comprise finish spot on April 11 but was as soon as delayed by machine considerations.
Why it’s important: Past being a important milestone for Mars exploration, the flight may doubtless even pave the methodology for engineers to focal point on novel ways to explore diversified planets. Future drone helicopters may doubtless per chance help rovers or even astronauts by scoping out locations, exploring inaccessible areas, and capturing photos. Ingenuity may doubtless even help yelp the make of Dragonfly, a automobile-size drone that NASA is planning to ship to Saturn’s moon Titan in 2027.
What’s next: In the next couple of weeks, Ingenuity will conduct four more flights, every lasting up to 90 seconds. Every is designed to additional push the limits of Ingenuity’s capabilities. Ingenuity is finest designed to final for 30 Martian days, and is expected to quit functioning around Would possibly 4. Its closing resting spot will doubtless be in the Jezero Crater as NASA moves on to the considerable focal point of its mission: getting the Perseverance rover to discover about Mars for evidence of existence.