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NASA flies and lands a helicopter on Mars, the first flight on another planet

NASA flies and lands a helicopter on Mars, the first flight on another planet

April 20, 2021: -On Monday, NASA successfully conducted the first controlled flight on another planet; its Mars helicopter Ingenuity flew a short flight in what the agency described as “a Wright Brothers moment” in space.

“Ingenuity is reporting having performed spin up, takeoff, climb, hover, descent, landing, and spin down,” NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory flight control said on a webcast.

NASA flew the 4-pound craft for 39.1 seconds to an altitude of about 10 feet above the surface. The helicopter’s rotors spun to more than 2,500 revolutions per minute, far faster than a helicopter on Earth due to the thin atmosphere of the Martian environment.

The flight was autonomous, given the 15-minute delay in communications between NASA’s location in California and the surface of the red planet.

The helicopter carried a smallest piece of fabric from the wing of Flyer 1, the Wright brothers’ aircraft that made the first powered flights on Earth in 1993.

“Like the Wright brothers at Kitty Hawk, we know that our time to make a difference at Jezero Crater, Mars is not yet over – this is just the first great flight,” JPL’s MiMi Aung, the Ingenuity’s project manager, said on the webcast.

The helicopter arrived on Mars with NASA’s rover Perseverance, which landed on February 18 after a six-month voyage. Perseverance deployed the helicopter from underneath the rover earlier this month, with NASA performing a long list of preflight checks during the past two weeks. Perseverance captured Ingenuity’s flight while parked about 211 feet away and acted as a communications relay between JPL’s mission control and the helicopter.

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