There was much to celebrate at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California earlier today after data returned from Mars confirmed that the Ingenuity helicopter – the first of its kind ever sent to another planet – had successfully achieved its maiden flight.
“We can now say that human beings have flown a rotorcraft on another planet,” said project manager MiMi Aung who couldn’t contain her excitement when the news came in.
“We’ve been talking for so long about our ‘Wright Brothers moment’ on Mars, and here it is.”
The helicopter, which hitched a ride to Mars in the belly of the Perseverance rover, managed to fly up into the air for around 40 seconds before touching down on the surface again.
Getting the vehicle airborne at all is quite the accomplishment as the atmosphere on Mars is extremely thin compared to that of the Earth, making it much more difficult to achieve lift.
“We really had nailed the equations, the models and the verification here on Earth in our laboratory tests,” said Aung. ” So, it then became a question of: have we chosen the right materials to build Ingenuity, to survive the space environment, to survive the Mars environment?”
“We’ve gone from ‘theory says you can’ to really now having done it.”
“It’s a major first for the human race.”