NASA Helicopter Makes History With First Flight On Other Planet

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Historic first flight of small helicopter on an offworld planet, after NASA successfully launches small helicopter on Mars

American Space Agency NASA has once again made history after its Ingenuity helicopter succeeded in a historic first flight on the red planet of Mars.

The announcement by NASA of the success of the mission means that for the first time in mankind’s history, an aircraft has achieved a “powered, controlled flight on another planet.”

NASA has been gradually ramping up its ability for mankind to land on both the Moon, as well as Mars. Last October NASA confirmed water on the sunlit surface of the Moon, expanding the options for a permanent lunar settlement on earth’s only natural satellite.

First flight

But this week on Monday, NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter became the first aircraft in history to make a powered, controlled flight on another planet.

“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,” he said. “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 flight of Ingenuity was very short, lasting less than a minute. Ingenuity climbed to its prescribed maximum altitude of 10 feet (3 meters) and maintained a stable hover for 30 seconds. It then descended, touching back down on the surface of Mars after logging a total of 39.1 seconds of flight.

A YouTube video of the flight can be found here.

It should be noted that the flight was not controlled by an operator with a joystick, because data must be sent to and returned from the Red Planet over hundreds of millions of miles using orbiting satellites and NASA’s Deep Space Network.

Instead it was an automated flight.

Wright brothers

“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,” NASA Associate Administrator for Science Thomas 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, 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.”

And it is reported that Ingenuity helicopter contained a few grams of material from the Wright Brothers aircraft.

The Ingenuity helicopter had to contend with the fact that Mars has an extremely thin atmosphere (one-third that of Earth’s), coupled an extremely thin atmosphere with only 1 percent the pressure at the surface compared to Earth.

This meant the rotor blades of the Ingenuity helicopter had to spin much faster than on earth in order to get airborne.

It is hoped that the Ingenuity helicopter will be able to provide detailed aerial views of the Red planet.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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