This week, NASA’s Mars helicopter ‘Ingenuity’ performed the first ever flight on another world. Could this historic demonstration mark the start of a whole new mode of planetary travel?
Is there a prouder moment than seeing your child break out of their bicycle stabilisers and roam free? Many an employee at NASA experienced that feeling for the first time on Monday (April 19th), as Ingenuity nailed its debut flight test.
Engineers at the space agency kickstarted the week with a historic announcement. At 3:30am (12:30pm Mars time), the mini helicopter that once clung to the undercarriage of the Mars rover Perseverance took to the skies for the first time.
The super engineered four-pound machine spun its twin motor blades and elevated itself 10 feet above the red surface autonomously, hovering for 39 seconds and performing a pivot manoeuvre before safety descending again.
— NASA JPL (@NASAJPL) April 19, 2021
For those initially picturing a mazy flight over the stretching dunes and mountains of Mars, unfortunately we aren’t quite there yet.
Nevertheless, the debut test was celebrated momentously by engineers in an operating room 173 million miles away and rightly so, with all recognising this small success could have game changing ramifications for planetary exploration forever.
With flight tests delayed several times due to software and pre-flight glitches, everything came together on Monday and the triumph was lauded as another Wright brothers moment.