First flight on Mars: NASA's Ingenuity helicopter makes historic lift-off

ANI
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The space agency's helicopter team live-streamed images of the chopper flying on Mars, in the early morning hours on Monday, April 19.
The space agency's helicopter team live-streamed images of the chopper flying on Mars, in the early morning hours on Monday, April 19.

By Reena Bhardwaj

Washington [US], April 19 (ANI): NASA created history on Monday as it successfully launched a helicopter from the surface of Mars.

The first powered, controlled flight on another planet Mars-copter - called Ingenuity.

The space agency's helicopter team live-streamed images of the chopper flying on Mars, in the early morning hours on Monday, April 19.

Engineers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory broke out in cheers upon confirmation that Ingenuity's flight attempt was a success.

"Confirmed that Ingenuity has performed its first flight of a powered aircraft on another planet," NASA's downlink engineer Michael Starch declared.

"We can now say that humans beings have flown a rotorcraft on another planet," Ingenuity project manager MiMi Aung told NASA engineers in mission control after confirmation of the helicopter's successful flight test.

Almost 173 million miles away from Earth, the test flight took place on the floor of Martian land called Jezero Crater. The tiny spacecraft lifted itself 10 feet off the Martian surface for about 40 seconds, marking the first-ever powered flight on another world.

"This gives us amazing hope for all of humanity. I couldn't be more proud," Thomas Zurbuchen, associate NASA administrator for science tweeted.

Upon successful confirmation, Zurbuchen said NASA named Ingenuity's flight zone Wright Brothers Field, as a homage to the Wright brothers' revolutionary flight in 1903 and "in recognition of the ingenuity and innovation that continue to propel exploration."

In a nod to the first such feat conducted on Earth, Ingenuity carries a swatch of fabric from the Wright brothers' plane and is affixed under the copters solar panel.

NASA's helicopter team for this mission received the data downlink from Mars at the Space Flight Operations Facility at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Images and video of the flight were captured from cameras mounted on the helicopter and on the Perseverance rover, which landed on Mars touched down Martian land on 18 February.

For a nearly seven-month journey through space perseverance carried the helicopter beneath it as it made its descent to Mars' surface in February.

For ingenuity"s first flight Perseverance had been parked 76 metres away from the mini-helicopter to collect and transmit data. Radio signals usually take 15 minutes and 27 seconds to cross the current gap between Earth and Mars.

With the success, Ingenuity will undertake several additional, lengthier flights in the weeks ahead, though it will need to rest four to five days in between each to recharge its batteries.

The helicopter will test flight conditions in the planet's atmosphere, which is colder and has different levels of gravity. The pull of gravity on the Red Planet is less, which helps - but even so engineers have had to build the chopper very light with a mass of just 1.8 kg.

With this small yet important technology demonstration, the US Space agency is hopeful about how we could eventually transform and explore some distant worlds.

NASA has been preparing for this mission for over eight years now. The flight was originally scheduled for April 11 but shifted after a command-sequence issue was discovered when the helicopter went through a system of preflight checks with its software. (ANI)